If you’ve been in the office design business for a while, you undoubtedly know the term “in-between space”. But what exactly do people mean when they refer to in-between spaces? Is there a common understanding of the term?
As demand for high-performance, high-flexibility spaces is on the rise, it’s probably a good time to unpack the concept.
In-between spaces in the office are places where workers can catch their breath between meetings, whether regrouping in solitude or making an impromptu connection with a colleague. These spaces are typically small, informal areas where you can perch with a laptop to catch up on email, sit to review your notes before a meeting, pause to answer a coworker’s question or get away from your desk for a more relaxed work style.
The term in-between can have both a geographic and a functional meaning:
Structurally, these spaces can either be enclosed, like a private enclave, or open, like a small public lounge. If they’re enclosed, employees typically use them to make phone calls, have private discussions or do work that requires focus or concentration. If they’re open, in-between spaces are great for texting, catching up on email and casual conversations.
Aesthetically, there are no set rules. This is an example of a flexible ancillary space where the designer has free rein. Because of this inherent flexibility, modular systems offer an ideal design solution to tailor-make a space that fits the needs of your workplace.
The multi-purpose accessories and styles of Circa can be configured to match the shape and aesthetic of any lounge.
Another feature of in-between spaces is that they’re unassigned. In-between spaces belong to everyone and no one. They’re generally understood to be short-term spots — spaces with frequent turnover, not an all-afternoon locale.
The aim is to give employees more choice over where they work and how they use the workplace. In-between spaces reflect the growing realization that work happens everywhere and that different tasks require different types of spaces.
Steelcase has studied in-between spaces in learning environments and reports a similar trend in educational settings. Just as work can happen anywhere in the office, learning can happen anywhere on campus, not just in the classroom. Universities are therefore making better use of real estate by providing small collaboration areas— in-between spaces — outside of classrooms, encouraging students to connect before class or continue discussions afterwards.
Finally, in-between spaces set the stage for spontaneity. Because they’re often located between other venues, they’re places where chance encounters are more likely to happen. They encourage social connections between colleagues that can boost employee engagement.
These spontaneous connections are good for morale, for a sense of belonging and for a shared sense of purpose. So it makes sense for companies to encourage interactions by providing places for them to happen. In-between spaces are a means to facilitate unplanned meetings — a way to plan for spontaneity.
Even small spaces can function as in-between spaces — here with the refined Enea Altzo collection of stools.
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