submitted written by: Janet Simpson, Senior Designer @ tvs design, IIDA
Technology has brought a welcome fluidity to our lives. Increasingly, we have the ability to access the information we need from wherever we are. Technology has set us free to be on the move and where we choose to go is influenced by what we need to do when we get there. This mobility creates both opportunity and necessity for work to be accomplished as we move from place to place resulting in new realities for workforce needs. So the question we should be asking is what does the workforce need to do when they go to the office? The answer to this question provokes an opportunity to embrace progressive workplace design approaches as eagerly as we embrace technology innovations. Design that fits the function – it’s not a new idea of how to approach the design of the workplace but the results should be new as changes occur in how we function.
The familiar formula of offices + workstations + conference rooms + ancillary areas = adequate workplace is being challenged by organizations experiencing the changes brought about by technology, the needs of a multi-generational workforce and economic pressures to decrease operating cost. These dynamics, combined with the reality that 30% - 50% of employees are not at their assigned workspace at any given time during work hours, are cause to reconsider if supporting the work of an organization requires an assigned workspace for every employee and what types of settings are attune to the way work is accomplished. After all, the ability to work anywhere anytime doesn’t mean that employees never need to “go to the office”. Connection and participation are essential to the culture and productivity of an organization and the workplace should be compatible with what employees need to stay engaged as their work process becomes more mobile. It has become increasingly common for the workplace to have environments that are named and configured to reflect a home environment such as Living Room, Kitchen or Den. This concept is a response to the need to foster community and dynamic workflow by suggesting that similar to your home, you have the flexibility to move about from “room to room” as you transition activities throughout the day.
If you think about the changes we have experienced in the workforce in the past five years and try to imagine what changes the next 5 years will bring, it becomes clear that it has never been more critical for organizations to develop a workplace strategy to optimize the use of their real estate and position the wokplace to support the mobile and distributed nature of work. Recognizing the need for a new approach is a vital step but defining what the new approach is defines the future. Design professionals have a pivotal role in shaping the workplace to be relevant by supporting the ways that people work while capitalizing on the dynamics of change and the new possibilities it brings.
More thought provoking articles on this topic:
The Big Bold Shift by Christopher T. Hood (http://www.scribd.com/doc/105388744)