The New York Times recently ran an article
about the trend of enterprises supplementing their open office designs with private spaces — phone booths, meditation rooms, private rooms for nursing mothers, and the like. The piece does a nice job of showing why these new variations on the theme of open office are so appealing.
As the writer points out, offices have always been a mix of public and private spaces. The difference, she notes, is that “private space used to belong exclusively to those at the top of a company’s hierarchy, with high-level staff members ensconced in offices of their own. Today, all workers can use the new private spaces — they just have to share them with everyone else.”
And it’s why open offices really can represent an improvement over previous generations’ designs: Would you rather sit in an old-fashioned cubicle all day long, or base yourself at a workstation in an open office, but also have spaces you can retreat to when you need privacy, whether for business or personal reasons?
And this is why information technology is such a critical part of the workplace of the future. In the era of “Office Space
,” few if any office workers could have performed their tasks anywhere but at their desks. With Wi-Fi, laptops, and smart phones came liberation from the workstation. It’s now practical to build private spaces that anyone can use to do the same work they do at their desk. And while videoconferences used to be possible only in dedicated rooms, now any space can be a video room.
Finally, the focus in the Times article on prayer rooms or mothers’ rooms points to the need for HR to be highly engaged in the creation of the physical workspace. If your employees are going to be checking their email at home, it’s only fair to facilitate the most important elements of their personal lives that may need to be conducted at the office. In the past, enterprises rarely begrudged their employees’ use of phones and computers for short personal calls or a quick check of your own Gmail account, so long as people didn’t abuse the system. Some companies even look the other way when employees stream March Madness games on one of their browser tabs during the workday. So, it’s a natural extension to create spaces for less frivolous pursuits.
All of this is meant to add up to a happier, more engaged workforce. And the enterprise IT/AV, HR, and Facilities/Real Estate teams have the lion’s share of the responsibility for turning this goal of employee engagement into a reality on the ground. It’s why we launched this WorkSpace Connect website, where we’re posting independent analysis and thought-provoking ideas about how professionals from these three organizations can work together to build the workplace of the future. I encourage you to join the conversation!
And if your workplace strategy is an even more immediate issue for you, I invite you to join our WorkSpace Connect team in Orlando, Fla., on March 30 for our first-ever WorkSpace Connect Summit
. This one-day event will feature talks covering everything from data-driven analysis of employee behavior to the latest strategies for meeting room deployments. We’d love to have you join us!