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Blog : Office or park life?


Office or park life?

Do your people have a say in their physical working environment? ‘The office’ is where we spend most of our time; practically where we live and in many cases employees see more of their colleagues than their own families. This is the place we do the work which provides our life with structure, purpose and often, meaning.

As Lucy Kellaway finely (and funnily) explains on her series ‘History of Office Life’ on BBC Radio 4, the way we work has changed fundamentally over the last two centuries; from rising standards in education; the introduction of women in the workplace and the advancement of technology. However, ‘the office’ itself seems to have no history. People are merely accepting of the way we work now. But why? How did we get here? It was these questions which led me to research and uncover some ‘office’ history. Most notable was the 1970’s ‘co-determination’ movement in Europe which led to legislation being introduced giving employees a say in how companies were run and offices designed. At Purple Cubed we advocate people having choices about how and where they work, here are some of the most common challenges:

  • Working from the office or home? Much has been reported about Marissa Mayer’s controversial reversal of policy at Yahoo. So, with no intention of re-opening the debate, we are sure with trust, organisation, planning, appropriate communication and technology this can be achieved successfully
  • What technology do you need to support the way people work? From communication devices and networks, file storage and even, in open plan offices, devices to achieve the ‘right amount’ of noise. Research shows that too much noise can be distracting and too little can be intimidating. A certain amount of noise seems to be desirable - like the hum of a busy restaurant that allows a table of two to enjoy a private conversation. To address this, organisations are using the latest technology to help them get the balance right, broadcasting "pink noise" from speakers ((Click here to listen – it really does work!)
  • Cubicules or open-plan working? Lucy Kellaway explains: “Historically lowly workers have always worked open plan while managers had their own offices – until the 1960s and a German movement called Bürolandschaft took away walls and put in pot plants instead. Since then the onward march of open plan has continued, and even if executives manage to hold on to their offices, the walls are now made of glass. Thus anyone wanting a private meeting is forced out of the goldfish bowl and on to the stairwell.”Office layout shouldn't be a compromise between private and public space, but one which offers both things to its people whenever they need them.
  • Own space or hotdesk?  Generation Y are telling us that they prefer much more free-flowing places, the idea of hanging about anywhere with your laptop and various other mobile devices, –and not necessarily on an ergonomically designed chair. Is it worth considering an office that offers people a choice of sofas, coffee table areas, traditional desk and a “chill-out” area?

Ultimately it is the people that spend the most time working in a space that should determine how it looks and feels – if you have the right people, living the values of your organisation, your ‘office space’ will be a reflection of who you are as an organisation – and we don’t just mean painting the walls purple!

What have you done to ensure the physical place people work reflects you as an organisation?

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