For decades office space has pretty much remained the same. The top executives resided in enclosed offices with windows and doors while most of the staff members worked in cubicles. While the layout improved over the years with ergonomic advances, the basic layout and work style of offices remained more or less static.
Now that we are in the 21st Century, office space is being re-imaged completely by many businesses and the re-invention of the office is proving to be more productive. Office work styles are changing radically, driving some of these changes.
The last few decades have also experienced workers who remained with a business for a few years, then moving into other positions of higher levels in competing companies. Many businesses accepted this style of employment because few employees remained long enough to earn a pension and the associated costs. However, the cost of locating and training quality employees was very high and the experience factor that was lost began to cost many companies in the long run. This, too, drives the re-imaging of office space.
Silicon Valley was the first area in which non-traditional office spaces began to emerge. Google is a prime example of one of the first businesses to re-image their office space. Instead of a bullpen full of cubicles, workers have desks and equipment in
communities where those who work on similar projects can easily brainstorm at any time. If someone needs a few minutes to think in a quiet area, there are plenty of unique locations to do so, such as a large bathtub full of pillows facing a wall of aquariums. While some meetings are held around a table with chairs, employees have options to meet in comfortable lounges with comfortable furnishings or outdoors. Areas for recreation are provided; including video game stations, a top of the line cafeteria and the entire area has data access so anyone can use their laptops anywhere they wish. If someone needs to go to the far side of the Googleplex, as it is known, they can jump on one of the readily available bicycles which can be used in the wide hallways or outdoors.
It may seem as if the re-invention of an office into this new style would cut productivity. The reverse has proven true, as the huge profits generated by the employees of Google has proven. Employee satisfaction is extremely high, making team members want to produce. Benefits and freedom to work in whatever style is preferred by the team members generates strong employee loyalty, reducing turnover so that training and experience is maximized.
This re-invention of office space looks and feels very radical at first, but when you think of how people really work and where their ideas are generated, it makes perfect sense. Seldom do cutting edge ideas emerge from a single person. Usually they occur when people are interfaces, chatting over a cup of coffee, or brainstorming together. Why should they be forced relegated to cubicles where they face barriers to communication and contact with others?
Google’s solution to what an office space should be and how it should functions has let other corporations, both large and small, to adopt changes which improve human contact and happiness. It has long been known that happy employees are loyal, trustworthy, and extremely productive. While unhappy employees may produce, many ideas that could earn millions in profit never come to light. The confinement inherent to traditional office space layouts is radically changing and your business may find that re-inventing all or part of your office space may increase productivity and employee satisfaction.
Having looked at one office re-invention, our next post on this topic will delve deeper into the drivers of office space re-invention. Then we will look at ways to apply these concepts to your own workspace.
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