Allison Arieff On The Future Of The Office


My office today

I originally titled this post "Allison Arieff On The Office of the Future" but really, that's wrong, it is really about the future of the office. She picks up on a theme that I covered in Meet The New Boss's Office, Same As The Old Boss's Office- that so many of the articles covering the "new office" are "disconcertingly out of touch."
Herman Miller's Action Office In Action

Allison writes in the New York Times:

Adjustable desks, foldout benches and louvered shades have their place but, to paraphrase [designer Nathan] Shedroff, furniture is not the problem. Just as with climate change, there is an overwhelming tendency to tackle serious challenges with consumer goods. But in the same way that bamboo floors, hybrid SUVs and eco-couture haven't done much to curb carbon emissions, designing (and buying) more stuff for offices, no matter how sleek or sustainable it is, likely won't help reset the culture of work.

Allison wonders how the office will "respond to the contemporary realities of work culture."

I'd argue that the focus should be less on floor plans and more on ways of working. When's the last time you had a creative breakthrough in a Monday morning meeting? Creativity springs from unexpected places and sources -- from a walk in the park to the rare block of uninterrupted time -- so thinking more broadly about the intrinsic motivations (autonomy, learning, etc.) that facilitate good work is likely to have a far happier outcome than the "latest" innovation in cubicles.

More in the New York Times

I was really surprised by the anger in some of the comments to Allison's article. (But then I am always surprised how angry people get in comments.) Many defended the office and even the cube farm:

Utter hooey.

It's simple, really. In order to be productive, office workers need: four walls that touch both floor and ceiling; a door that closes for privacy and quiet; a window or skylight that brings in daylight; an ergonomic and comfortable chair and desk; and a guest chair. Plus conference rooms available on demand.


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Call me old-fashioned, but I like cubicles. They provide two essential things - I don't have to see other people all the time, and other people can't see me all the time. It's not the privacy of an office, but it's enough.

But that's just conditioning, and wishful thinking. For instance, I have never been in an architects' office, even in the Banana Republic, where all of the architects didn't work together in one room without walls or dividers. It's the culture. And no matter what the happy farmer says, her days are numbered as the technology evolves.

And we just had our first meeting in a Google Hangout, complete with silly hats to celebrate the occasion. I must say, after previously complaining about video conferencing, that it is easy, fun, free and provides a better level of interaction than just a skype conversation. And this is over a wimax internet stick connection while sitting in a cabin in the woods. It really is the end of an Aeron and the start of a new way of working.

More on the Future of the Office
Your Office is In Your Pants: 6 Trends Shaping The Way We Work
Seth Godin Says Goodbye To The Office
A Revolutionary Future: Is the Office Necessary?
The Office of the Future: How We Will Work in 2025

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