How can the physical design of the workplace enhance collaborations without compromising an individual's productivity? The body of research on the links between physical space and collaboration in knowledge work settings is reviewed. Collaboration is viewed as a system of behaviours that includes both social and solitary work. The social aspects of collaboration are discussed in terms of three dimensions: awareness, brief interaction and collaboration (working together). Current knowledge on the links between space and the social as well as individual aspects of collaborative work is reviewed. The central conflict of collaboration is considered: how to design effectively to provide a balance between the need to interact and the need to work effectively by oneself. The body of literature shows that features and attributes of space can be manipulated to increase awareness, interaction and collaboration. However, doing so frequently has negative impacts on individual work as a result of increases in noise distractions and interruptions to on-going work. The effects are most harmful for individual tasks requiring complex and focused mental work. The negative effects are compounded by a workplace that increasingly suffers from cognitive overload brought on by time stress, increased workload and multitasking.
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