As an office design professional, you have a lot of freedom to shape workspaces in ways that meet organizations’ goals for employee engagement, collaboration, wellbeing and productivity.

And perhaps nowhere in the office gives you more design freedom than ancillary spaces.

The alternative workers want

Ancillary spaces are those secondary, less formal areas of an office that are available to everyone. You won’t see desks here—it’ll be couches, coffee tables and lounge chairs; bistro tables and barstools; communal project tables, coffee stations and green plants.

These are the casual, flexible, congenial spaces that feel less corporate and more like home.

From a business strategy standpoint, ancillary spaces meet workers’ need for places to connect, collaborate and concentrate. The spaces we’re talking about are office lounges, project studios, work cafés, enclaves, in-between spaces and other common areas—those “third places” at work that get people to stay on campus rather than heading to a Starbucks when they need a change of scenery.

From a design standpoint, ancillary spaces offer the kind of creative freedom you just don’t get when you’re planning a back office or call center.

As unique as the organization

When you talk about ancillary spaces, you hear words like informal, versatile, comfortable, inspirational and welcoming. All of this translates into a designer’s dream: no mold to fit into, no cookie-cutter approach to follow. As long as you’re providing high-performance support for a range of postures and offering a variety of work settings so people can find the right place for each task, you can be as imaginative as you like with the details.

Try a blend of textures, patterns and colors—a mix of materials to set the tone. Be eclectic. Take advantage of opportunities to customize furniture for your clients, such as by applying tattoos to the LessThanFive chair or specifying your own top for the Turnstone Bassline table.

Touches like these can make these spaces unique to the organization, engendering a sense of place, story and belonging.

Ancillary spaces are becoming increasingly vital in contemporary work life, and they’re throwing open the door to dynamic new ideas. For inspiration, see our ancillary board on Pinterest or click through the slideshow above.

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A community work table is the centerpiece of this ancillary space, featuring the Potrero415 Table and Montara650 Chair.