As a self-professed codger, curmudgeon, and contrarian, I am increasingly disturbed that so many “designed solutions” of built environments have very little to do with design thinking, understanding users’ requirements, or meeting a specific goal. They are mostly just presumptive designs. By that I mean, the design meets a single or set of underlying assumption(s) most often based on rather tenuous logic.
Presumptive design has dominated approaches to workplaces for more than a decade, resulting in so-called designed solutions that include smaller and smaller individual space, more openness, and less enclosure. In truth, this meets one primary goal: reducing the cost per occupant of these workplaces.
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We have done a series of articles centered around the workplace environment. There have been numerous pieces on standing desks, leaning workstations and a modern collaborative space. But with many companies shifting to mobile workers and telecommuting, the home has become the workplace for many Americans. According to Green Biz, companies can save up to $10,000 per employee a year by having workers telecommute. A recent article by Fast Company highlights the homes of some of the “top creatives from around the world”. The article mentions how creative offices spaces are designed to inspire, but inspiration starts at home.
The last time we covered this topic, we focused on the opportunities that arise with the dynamic assignment of workspaces. We highlighted that open floor plans were a great advance in the evolution of workplace layout, especially back when there was a lot of basic taskwork that leashed employees to their desks and a small group of other employees they needed to interact with. They were all there, just a shout away. The cost savings were huge in reduced space needed.
The bigger driving factor, however, has been the pervasive idea that open offices encourage collaboration, spark creative conversation, and increase productivity. Since there’s really no such thing as a private conversation in many of these offices, they also serve to symbolize the modern, egalitarian workplace ideal: one big happy family that types together, eats together, and works through personal drama together.
The British firm Ergonomi published a great article on dynamic workplace assignment. They refer to it as “hot-desking” but I suspect this is because they are consultants and want to brand the concept a little, even though the concept is widely implemented (although rarely implemented effectively). Whatever you call it, the idea has a lot of potential and the article has a lot of good ideas. The following combines some of the insights from the article as well as a few additions of my own.
There seems to be a rising trend of hot-desking. An office organization system which involves multiple workers sharing a single physical work station or surface during different time periods as opposed to each staff member having their own personal desk.