Today’s offices are noticeably different from a decade ago. Many companies have jettisoned corner offices and tightly packed cubicles in favour of open floor plans. At the same time, more employees are choosing to work from home. But both trends have limitations, the former has been shown to hinder workplace productivity, while the latter can stifle collaboration.
“The only reason left for going in to work is to interact with other people,” said Gale, pointing out that technology gives most office workers access to the tools they need to do their job from the comfort of home. “But people need to meet face to face for a multitude of reasons. And that is one of the biggest issues we need to address over the next 20 years. The other key question we asked ourselves was how do we get our people to share information to foster creativity and innovation?”
Dubbed “the convivial workplace”, a new concept may radically change how offices are designed and expectations of how they work.
Convivial offices are designed to encourage people to move about, mix and make social contacts outside their own team or department. The result is a network of “asymmetric” social/professional connections from which unexpected, and even game-changing, innovations may arise.
The idea is to combine work and socialisation across the whole office, not just in a cafeteria destination where you leave after a short time. To achieve this, the convivial office would be a much “looser” workplace than we’re used to, with few spaces even looking like dedicated work areas. Instead, imagine an office where there is little or no assigned seating, and which looks like a combination of workspace, lounge and cafeteria.
But the culture has to be there to allow the architecture to work: people need to have clear permission to foster social relationships as part of their day job. If you want to attract and keep the best people and help them share their wisdom, this is an element of the workplace that needs consideration.
Whatever the workplace of the future turns out to be, twenty years from now, workers may reflect on the offices of 2015 as “dark satanic mills”. People will say, “did you actually get up in the morning, commute for an hour and a half, sit there in front of a screen, and then go home again? You must be joking”.