Improving team communication with environment changes

As long as you get a room for your team, its common to try to use it's space efficiently. Commonly, being "efficient" with a space means to allocate as much working desks we can inside a room. But, what we've figured out doing this is that the space determines how people interact. Just filling the space with the most geometrical arrangement can really impact on the daily dynamics and cause communication problems.

Here at ContaAzul we have a design guild that brings together the UX designers of the squads. The design guild workspace is a place where you have free walls and whiteboards to discuss problems together. We've tried to locate a central space that can be reached easily by anyone of the teams (developers, product managers, specialists and designers).

We have design routines to solve problems collaboratively

We’ve decided to make the walls usable, with no desks blocking it. Doing so, we created and "island" to place 8 designers.

Quick project made with Autodesk HomeStyler to preview the space layout.
The space was used by 8 designers and was really tight for meetings.

After trying our first layout version for the Design Guild Workspace, we’ve figured out that people were afraid of getting into the “Designer’s Place”. That was absolutely what we were trying to avoid! We made the space to be a collaborative place, where people from any background could solve problems together.

So, we had to change something to improve the participation of others inside the designing process. Design is about understanding problems from many points of view, therefore, we need people with different mindsets designing.

After exposing the problem for the team at our Design Talk. We've decided to change 3 things:

  • Open the space to motivate participation and take our physical barrier off of the way. We've reallocated the tables to be near the walls, creating two sides: User research (a Psychologist, a Quantitative Researcher and a Qualitative researcher) and Visual Design (a Visual Designer, two Illustrators and a Frontend focused on styleguides)
On the right side our visual team works together, on the left side our User Research team.
  • Open mockups reviewing. A place where anyone can sit and review prototypes we published on Invision App.
The image says "Review a mockup for some candy" :)
  • Public desks with many chairs to invite people to solve problems inside the space. Writable tables that are easy to rearrange for different meetings.
The space became much more open and customizable.

After doing this the collaboration really improved:

1. More Mockup reviews and comments.

After using the mockup review table, 127 comments where made by the teammates on the last 50 days.

2. Much more spontaneous meetings inside the space.

It's awesome to see people having small meetings to solve problems together.

So… we still don't have an inspiring place to work like I saw when visited Silicon Valley. But small changes can impact our daily behavior. These changes cost less than $50 and probably will impact our solution`s maturity on an unmeasurable way.

Hope I've helped you to improve your workspace :)

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