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Does Not Having an Office Make You a Happier Worker?

Office Space
Office Space (Photo credit: steve-and-diane)

I read an article yesterday about “the next big thing” in office space. According to Uday Dandavate, the CEO of SonicRim, the next “megatrend” is going to be no office space:

Large working complexes will be pyramids for dead people. I’m not making a judgment. I am just observing. They are fading symbols of an era that is soon going to be a bygone era.The ideal environment is where people don’t have to go to a workplace. The workplace is distributed in the community.
Companies won’t be building offices; they will be building communities and nice places to work in those communities. It’s a fallacy that people want to stay at home to work. In a given moment they want to work where they would be most productive, or relaxed, in the kind of mindset they need to be in. We need to get away from constructing buildings that have flexibility to creating work environments that can evolve.

There needs to be a complex assessment of different moments at work. Recently we finished a global study on auto interiors for Johnson Controls. When you sit inside your car there are different moments that have different states of mind, going to work or coming home. Sometimes people want to feel their car is their home. At times people want the car to feel like a workplace. Take the same concept and apply it to architecture and work places. For any productive activity, not just working but cooking, reading, writing a letter, there is always a most conducive environment.

More at: The Registry SF

While Dandavate believes that the workers will be dispersed throughout the community, I’m not sure I entirely buy the idea that the central office space or main corporate headquarters is going to disappear. The emphasis on having everyone in one space my diminish, but there are a lot of reasons why having a central space sanctioned as “for work” is important.
To name a few:

  • Working parents who need a space away from family distractions, like screaming children and biting puppies. Or heck, noisy roommates for that matter.
  • People for whom going to the local library or coffee shop every day. This isn’t an option for a lot of people, even those living in big cities.
  • People who work very collaboratively and need real-time input, and face time in order to accomplish their work.
  • People who need more space to work than the kitchen table or their tiny apartment walls can provide.
  • Those who just need the peer pressure of others working around them to push through a hard deadline.
  • Extraverts!

Dandavate mentions a sense of identity for workers with the company that doesn’t require a tangible, geographical locale. I agree with his assessment that people don’t need a geographic place to congregate at to form a bond with coworkers or identify with a company, but they sure want one. Microsoft has a huge annual gathering of its employees in or near their homebase in Redmond, that most employees working from afar get really excited about. Traceurs (people who train parkour) will make pilgrimages to a small park outside of Paris simply because one of the sport’s founders filmed a video there. Elvis fans have Graceland.

Workers are also becoming more vocal about work vs. home life, and for many it is unappealing to have your work at home or not be able to leave it somewhere else (even places like Office Nomads you have to bring most of your stuff home with you).

Maybe I’m totally off-base, but while I think the workplace will become more flexible, we will always have the “homebase/headquarters” office buildings.
Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Does Not Having an Office Make You a Happier Worker?

  1. Hi scientiste: I agree that for many, especially creative people, shared office space is so important for the collaborative process.

    1. Thanks Susan! I appreciate having flexibility to work offsite at my own job if needed, but collaboration can be a lot tougher when not done in person.

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