As a consequence of lockdown policies brought in to combat this pandemic, office workers have gone from the traditional office space to a work-from-home lifestyle. However, it is known that working in isolation can be lonely — which could explain the recent popularity of co-working spaces. Will this new system produce lack of stimulation, hence, creativity?
Our traditional life patterns have been confined and are now entering a new era. Things that we saw as normal then will change. The open office as we know it will probably not survive.
Remote is not remote anymore, it’s a new “normal”. Collaboration will take on a new meaning and produce new tools. Mobile work, activity-based work and agile work will be further developed.
A new paradigm for architects and designers
Do our clients need us more than ever? Our roles as visionaries and change makers could rise in importance.
The current reality is much more complicated than simply deciding what software to use, or learning how to manage asynchronous meetings. This is not like one of the crisis we have seen before. People are not just adapting to working at home (if they are able to work at all), they must adapt to working alongside other family members in the same house.
This might also offer an opportunity for companies to finally build a culture that allows long term and mature work flexibility. This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work. It will mean forging a new social contract.
Laszlo Bock, the chief executive of Humu, a Silicon Valley human resources start-up and former Google’s top human resources officer, recently said that for most people, balancing office work with remote work is ideal. His company’s research has found that the ideal amount of work-from-home time is one and a half days per week — enough to participate in office culture, with some time reserved for deep, focused work.
Example of lunch area in an office.
“The reason tech companies have micro-kitchens and free snacks is not because they think people are going to starve between 9 a.m. and noon,” he said. “It’s because that’s where you get those moments of serendipity.”
The question is more about how a physical office can support and encourage a critical mass of interactions and connections between people to create a cocktail of creativity and intelligence that can develop groundbreaking ideas.
In an interview with Steve Jobs towards the end of his life, his biographer Walter Isaacs quoted him as saying: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy.”
We cannot forget that the way places look and feel has a profound impact on how we behave, how we interact and how we work. Design attitude does not allow for a de-humanised work environment. It is very useful to look at how design and architecture influence the world around us and, in particular, the inner workings of organizations.
Example of polyvalent collaborative area.
Creating the physical environment in which these spontaneous meetings or casual collisions occur is something many organizations are already doing. Their conclusion is clear: We cannot schedule innovation!
What is happening today is probably the most significant social experiment of “The Future of Work” in action. Few could have imagined this just a couple of months ago and only time will tell how architecture and design will respond to this new paradigm.