Activity Based Working: What Is A Learning Zone?

Activity Based Working (ABW) separates the office into dedicated zones for different work activities. These zones are designed using specific technology, furniture and décor that employees need to complete their tasks. For example, an ABW office may include a learning zone to facilitate learning and development.

 

What Is The Purpose Of A Learning Zone?

According to a survey by Gallup, 87% of millennials believe development is important in a job. Likewise, LinkedIn found that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Incorporating a dedicated learning zone for training and development empowers employees to learn new skills and challenge themselves at work.

Growth and development are essential for success. To continue thriving and improving, businesses must be committed to ongoing training at work. Learning zones demonstrate that learning is valued and encouraged, creating a positive working environment. Not only does this encourages new talent to join the business, but it promotes business loyalty and boosts productivity too.

Dedicated learning spaces entwine development into everyday tasks. With an on-site learning zone, employees can access learning materials at any time. Plus, it further fosters the idea that learning is continuous and a business skillset can constantly be developed.

A learning zone can be used for a variety of different training such as:

  • Deliver updates on business developments/announcements
  • Strategy planning
  • Training new employees
  • Informing staff of new policies
  • Helping employees learn a new software or skill
  • Internal and external presentations from specialists
  • Teamwork building
  • Webinars

Employees can also take initiative to pursue their own training rather than relying on managers to organise training events. For example, here at Midwich, we have ‘Wednesday Wisdom drop-in sessions’ where team members can share their knowledge on a topic of their choice.

Learning zones promote collaboration and discussion too. Although not a dedicated collaboration zone, it facilitates a space where employees can share ideas and complete a training program together. Enabling group discussion can help retain knowledge and bounce thoughts off each other.

A learning zone in the office minimises costs as it eliminates the need for employees to travel to far away training centres.

 

What Does A Learning Zone Look Like?

Everyone learns differently so it’s important to design a learning zone that caters to all needs. The amazing thing about ABW offices is that there are no rules: businesses can create a personalised training space where employees feel comfortable, engaged and inspired to learn new things.

Learning involves a variety of activities such as discussion, watching videos, presentations and team building. As the layout and furniture of the space depends on the specific training, implementing flexible and adaptable seating that can be moved is key. For example, some smaller teams may prefer to sit in a circle but if employees are attending a presentation, a U shape or rows of desks may be more beneficial to ensure that everyone can see the presenter.

Arguably the most important aspect of the learning zone is creating a comfortable atmosphere where employees feel confident to share ideas and are unafraid to make mistakes. For some team members, presenting and discussing can be daunting so businesses should consider these aspects when designing the learning zone.

Features such as comfortable seating arrangements, clusters of tables for smaller groups and resources such as whiteboards, help less confident employees use their voices. The décor should also be considered to inspire learning. Some studies suggest that adding yellow paint, cushions or artwork will boost confidence and optimism.

Group discussions:

Some employees may benefit the most from a group discussion. There should be a comfortable space to share ideas and different perspectives. This can be achieved through sofas for informal discussions or small tables and comfortable chairs for more formal discussions.

Self-development:

This may include shadowing a colleague, taking on a new project, reading industry texts or mentoring others. For employees that prefer to learn individually or spend time reading, reading nooks and private desks are useful.

Team building:

Team building includes fun activities that allow employees to connect with each other and work on improving their communication skills, problem solving and more. A strong team will create positive company culture and increase productivity. For team building exercises where employees have to move around, the learning zone needs enough space for social distancing and comfort. Depending on the size of your learning zone, moveable furniture is useful for adapting to training needs.

Regardless of the task, the learning zone should be an inviting space with maximum comfort.

 

Case Study: Dropbox

Dropbox has adopted an activity based office space. Their offices feature floor-to-ceiling scribble walls throughout and video conferencing areas to encourage learning. They use ‘safe’ training destinations that are private areas, where employees can feel empowered to challenge ideas.

“When people don’t feel safe, they contribute ideas that are middle of the road. For learning to happen, you need to be somewhere boundaries can be pushed” – Adrienne Gormley, Head of Dropbox Business in Europe, Middle East and Africa. 

In the San Francisco office, the library was inspired by 1970s Italian theatre and its soft blush décor is ideal for quiet reading.

Dropbox office library decor

Dropbox have adopted an open plan activity based working style globally. With a design concept of ‘workplace at home’, Dropbox used natural materials, soft colours, glass and beautiful views to make employees feel at ease and inspired.

Dropbox HQ office design

 

What Technology Is Needed In A Learning Zone?

Technology is fundamental for ABW workplaces. For employees and managers alike, to fully develop their skills, technology such as large format displays and versatile connectivity options supports the learning zone.

For watching training videos, webinars or delivering presentations, the learning zone requires large format displays with ultra-HD resolution and vivid images. Displays with non-glare and superb viewing angles from every corner of the room ensure that all employees can participate and are engaged.

People won’t feel encouraged to learn if the technology is difficult to navigate. Connecting to displays should be seamless. For example, an employee should be able to connect, display and present to their audience straight away, without worrying about the technology failing. Or, if your business uses a learning management system (LMS), logging in and accessing training should be intuitive and user-friendly.

Interactive displays are useful for collaborative discussions. Similarly, it should be easy to connect, share content and even start video calls for employees joining remotely. Applications that support Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) are useful for businesses adopting agile working.

The learning zone is used for a variety of purposes so the technology should support every scenario. Accessories such as a wireless presentation device, projector, mounts and HDMI extenders ensure maximum connectivity and accessibility.

Document solutions are also beneficial in the learning zone as employees may need to print physical resources to discuss. As the learning zone may have to facilitate whole departments at once, the document solutions should be able to perform in high-demanding spaces.

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