The power of Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) is in its application. For us, that means embedding it into every aspect of our organization. So, when we moved into our current office, we chose to design it with ICI in mind. That design created an environment that is welcoming, ‘conducive to learning’, and agile enough to accommodate different work styles.
KnowledgeWorkx was not always located at the top of a high-rise in the middle of Dubai. In 2001, we started up in a warehouse. We converted it into an office space because we wanted the flexibility to have a fun workspace that allowed for different modalities of working. So, we included things like a basketball court for people to use during breaks. When we moved from that warehouse to our current location, we were given the chance to design our new office entirely from scratch.
Designing the Space
We began by thinking, “How should this office represent our purpose, our values, and who we are?” We settled on three key elements. First, it should be a social place for our team to connect with each other, our clients, and certification groups. Second, it should be a place for us to work in every day, so it needs to be lifegiving and flexible for all our various kinds of work. Third, it should be a learning space. This is where our team will learn and grow together, and others will come to expand their horizons to become culturally agile.
We decided to divide the office into three zones. First, we created the social zone where people are welcomed into the office. This is the first glimpse of who we are, so we commissioned an artist to paint two canvases to symbolically capture all KnowledgeWorkx stands for. Now when people enter our office, they are met with a beautiful representation of how we are adding value to the world.
The artwork representing KnowledgeWorkx
Alongside that, we intentionally chose orange as the primary color to bring out the vibrance, light, energy, and brightness of this zone. This is the place where relationships are fostered, we play table tennis, and we eat here too! We enjoy food from around the world that we cater in-house for our office events. At the beginning of 2020, the social zone got a bit smaller when we built a podcasting studio. You can read more about the creation of our Podcastle here.
The Social Zone in full swing
Second, we created the admin zone. This is where our desks are, and where we get things done! We have a few designated desks, but the rest are ‘floating desks’ for anyone to use. This creates a space for guests to easily jump into our workflow. Since Covid, we have even fewer designated desks and have even more space for ‘floating desks’.
The Admin Zone
We were also intentional about health and ergonomics as we were designing this space. We have a variety of options for working, from standing desks to sitting balls. Everyone swaps between regular chairs and a ball. Even those that considered it unusual at first, have come to appreciate the way that sitting on a ball develops their posture and keeps them
moving throughout the day.
Rajitha with her daughter, and Landon enjoying the sitting ball
Thinking and Learning Zone
Third, we created the space where the learning, planning, and thinking happens in our office. It is the space where we collaborate, meet, and facilitate group learning. We chose purple and teal for this space because they both encourage creativity. Purple is associated with creativity, wealth, and creating value, while teal is all about serenity, calmness and deep thinking.
The Thinking and Learning Zone in use
When we started KnowledgeWorkx, we committed to being a thought leader in the intercultural field. That requires the creativity of our entire team, so we have found ways to allow everyone, even those whose roles are more administrative, to express their creativity. To do this we have maximized space where ideas can be recorded. The 8-meter-long glass walls in our thinking zone are covered in a special foil for writing on, we have 16 meters of Idea Paint whiteboards on which to work through processes and problems, and we also have an electronic interactive board in the front of the room.
We chose to not limit creativity and thinking to just the Learning zone, and made sure a few elements spilled out into the rest of the office. We have pens and sticky notes throughout the office so anyone can record their thoughts wherever they are.
Since we wanted the office to be life giving, we chose to literally fill it with life. The greenery has a calming effect and roots us in nature. Some of the plants are 10 feet high. We intentionally selected the best plants for purifying the air in the office - philodendrons, palms, peace lilies, snake plants, aloe…
The greenery of the office
Engaging conversations at the office
We also intentionally chose an office location with an inspiring view of Dubai. This creates spaces where people can have a conversation on a beanbag or a chair while overlooking the city - which is a great way to think big!
Everyone really loves the office. The plants and the color scheme, along with the ability to grab a beanbag, sit wherever you like, and write on the walls creates a home-y atmosphere. When people step into the office for the first time, we invariably hear words like these - “Wow, this is an office that feels like a home!” This was our idea and plan from the beginning – to create a calm office space that allows peoples’ ideas, thoughts, and feelings to flow.
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