What is a collaboration hub?

A new kind of office is bringing remote workers together to innovate, collaborate, and socialize

WeWork Carrera 11B # 99-25 in Bogota, Colombia. Photographs by WeWork

A collaboration hub is a type of workspace designed to promote interaction, community, and teamwork. While they can come in many different shapes, collaboration hubs are typically characterized by flexible office layouts, integrated breakout spaces, and adaptable meeting areas.

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Collaboration hubs are often at the heart of the hybrid workplace model—a style of working in which a company has a mixture of employees working both remotely and in-office. By repurposing an existing office layout as a dedicated collaboration space, a company can create an environment ideal for work activities that can’t be done as effectively when working remotely, such as project ideation, brainstorming, and planning.

What is the role of a collaboration hub?

The physical office space has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past year. The sudden shift toward remote working in 2020 brought with it enormous benefits to almost every aspect of how we work, from rebalancing our personal and professional lives to fast-tracking improvements in how we collaborate with distributed teams and satellite offices around the world.

This change in the way we work has recast the traditional office in a new light. The office no longer needs to be a place where we show up, do our work, and then leave. Instead, it’s being reimagined as a centralized space that supports the creative process at critical points in a project timeline, that’s there when we need it, and that exists to reinforce teamwork, socializing, and group productivity. In other words, it’s a collaboration hub.

People love the flexibility of working remotely, but they miss the benefits of sharing a physical space with colleagues. A collaboration hub fills that gap. It’s a place to work side by side, think in new ways, and foster emotional bonds between teams.

Essential aspects of a collaboration hub

  • Tools for efficient work. Unlike a traditional office, a collaboration hub doesn’t require row after row of assigned desks and computers. Hybrid teams can be equipped with the tools and software they need to do their job no matter where they are, so it’s the role of a collaboration hub to provide workers with the tools they don’t have at home. Depending on the type of work your team does, that could mean anything from photography studios and recording booths to resource libraries, prepress equipment, and printing facilities.
  • Clear responsibilities. A coherent and well-communicated team structure enables managers to take full advantage of the collaboration hub in both the physical and digital space. Individuals should be free to use the workplace on an ad hoc basis, but for a collaboration hub to be truly effective, activity-based project work should be directed and driven by team leaders.
  • Easy to get to. The clue is in the name: A collaboration hub needs to be central to where employees live. Busy, long, and crowded commutes are one of the biggest barriers to returning to the office, so a well-located workspace that’s convenient to get to is a vital aspect of a successful collaborative space.
  • Meeting rooms. Face-to-face interaction is freshly prioritized in a collaboration hub, so it is important to have a variety of places to meet with colleagues and clients. These should be easily reconfigured to accommodate any number of people, while enabling social distancing, and can range from informal breakout spaces to more professional meeting rooms.
  • Flexibility. The way that teams collaborate changes over the course of a single project, or as new projects are launched and old ones are phased out. An effective collaboration hub can quickly react to the changing needs of the business and its employees, perhaps using movable walls and versatile furniture to accommodate new ways of working as they arise. 
  • Wide customization. No two businesses are alike, and every company has specific needs and quirks. The fundamental difference between a dedicated collaboration hub and a generic office comes down to customization—the ability of the space to fit around a company’s way of working. 

Collaboration hubs vs. coworking spaces

A coworking space is an office in which employees from different teams or companies all share the same facilities, services, and space. 

A collaboration hub is something different. A collaboration hub brings together employees of a single company in one spot to encourage teamwork, creativity, and in-person innovation. 

Whereas a coworking space prioritizes individual productivity, the goal of a collaboration hub is more ambitious. It’s a dedicated space to develop new ideas without the barriers and friction of collaborating online, while maintaining the flexibility and freedom of remote working.

Collaboration hubs for remote work

As a part of a hybrid workplace, a collaboration hub is a lifeline for remote workers. Not only does it provide a destination for project meetings and in-person planning sessions, but the collaboration hub is an important social space for employees working from home. 

One casualty of the shift toward remote working has been company culture—the nebulous and ill-defined vibe of a workplace that arises organically from interactions between people. A collaboration hub is a space to meet colleagues, share stories, and develop the relationships that help define that culture.

How some companies already use collaboration hubs 

WeWork has a number of case studies on how companies are already taking advantage of collaboration hubs to achieve a more flexible workspace model. Often, the move is made by companies looking for ways to de-densify their teams and enable hybrid working in the wake of the pandemic. Here are some examples: 

  • PayPay, a cashless payment service in Tokyo, overhauled a floor of its office to set up distinct work zones that employees can use for face-to-face work. Nearly all employees (90 percent) said the redesign resulted in their productivity increasing or staying the same as before.
  • A large consumer goods company based on the outskirts of London launched a collaboration hub in a central city location, reducing commute times for remote workers and unlocking a dedicated space for in-person meetings and project work.
  • An international marketing agency shifted to a work-from-home policy and found that most of its sprawling multistory office complex was empty and unused. Rather than agree to extend the lease for another term, the company opened a smaller, more focused, highly customized collaboration hub for hybrid teams.

How WeWork can help build collaboration hubs for your company

Whether your teams work remotely or not, your company shouldn’t have to adapt to fit around an office—the office should fit around your company. WeWork designs office space solutions with flexibility in mind, creating customized collaboration hubs to suit the way your company works. 

Whether you’re looking to downsize your existing headquarters, or create a centralized hub with amenities to enable teamwork and innovation, WeWork provides beautifully designed, adaptable workspaces with flexible terms.

For even greater flexibility, WeWork All Access and WeWork On Demand let you and your teams access workspaces and meeting rooms in hundreds of locations across multiple cities, allowing everyone to work and collaborate wherever they are.

Steve Hogarty is a writer and journalist based in London. He is the travel editor of City AM newspaper and the deputy editor of City AM Magazine, where his work focuses on technology, travel, and entertainment.

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