Sonya Simmonds on co-creation of workplaces at Spotify


Sonya Simmonds, Spotify
Orgatec 2022
IBA editorial team IBA editorial team ·
4 Minutes

On invitation of the design magazine FRAME and IBA, Sonya Simmonds, Head of Workplace Innovation & Design at Spotify, talked at ORGATEC about the importance of co-creation in the evolution of workplace concepts.

The digital streaming service for music, podcasts and videos follows the mission to unleash the potential of human creativity by giving artists from all over the world the opportunity to make a living from their art and their fans the chance to enjoy and get inspired by it. This is also reflected in the Swedish company’s workplace design.

The “distributed-first” principle

True to the motto “Work is not something you come to the office for, it´s something you do.”. At Spotify, “Work from Anywhere” is possible. And not only that. The streaming service is pursuing the goal of switching completely to the “distributed-first principle” by 2025, which allows talents to create value for Spotify regardless of where they work. Nevertheless, Spotify wants to continue to offer its employees the social experience associated with office work but to extend this to include the virtual and digital value creation of collaboration. Spotify employees already work according to two work modes: the home mix for those who work from home most of the time and only come to the office once in a while, and the office mix for those who spend the majority of their time in the office. Freedom of choice is the key to success, as is accessibility and inclusion in all workspaces.

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The dynamic workplace

In 2019, Spotify began redesigning and adapting existing spatial concepts in its two largest office hubs in Stockholm and New York. Sonya Simmonds’ team focused on co-creation and the positive effects of change. The dynamic workplace is “approach that supports flexibility to allow everyone to do their work in a way what fits them and their team best, while being sustainable, both environmentally and financially,” says Simmonds. For the architect and workplace expert, the distributed-first principle encourages more shared workplace experiences by moving away from personal workspaces and supporting the employee experience.

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Key pillors of dynamic workplaces at Spotify:

  1. Sustainability: Redesign of existing spaces with consideration of sustainability of materials and furniture, but also sustainability of design and use of space.
  2. Flexibility: Planning workspaces as a mix of desks, focus zones, creativity areas and collaboration spaces.
  3. Wellbeing: Creating a place of well-being for employees by ensuring equality and equity in the design of workspaces that are accessible to all.
  4. Brand Experience: Transforming spaces into a brand experience and bringing the corporate spirit to life.
  5. Inclusive Design: Spatial design considering inclusion aspects in lighting, sound, acoustics and co.
  6. Comfort: Creating cozy and comfortable offices.

Co-creation is king

Including employees in the design process, as well as co-creation with external stakeholders, is vital to Simmonds. Communicating a clear goal is the foundation for community involvement, she says, as is listening and asking questions. Spotify applies the following process to different types of projects:

Beginning with the company’s mission and beliefs, Simmonds’ team first tries to understand the business needs and the problems that need to be solved through spatial design. A strong strategic and aligned basis with internal teams and other stakeholders is the foundation of all design concepts. The work is guided by a sense of what a Spotify office and project can look like, both globally and locally. Spaces are developed in a user-centric rather than hierarchical way. To achieve this, reference groups across the company are involved in a maximum of three meetings and given areas of influence to design on their own. At Spotify, in the reference groups attention is paid to diversity as well as clear role definition and continuous communication internally and externally.

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„Choice is key. We have a choice of where we work and from where we want to work. But we have to make it much more accessible.“ Sonya Simmonds

Visit also

The Co-Area Showrooms at IBA Forum In our showrooms you will find interiors for different requirements. Let yourself be inspired and discover suitable products!

View the recording of the lecture “Co-creating our workspaces” in our media center.

Cover photo: IBA