30 November 2010

Work, Rest and Play…?

The humble office; for most of us it is a home away from home. With increased working hours we tend to see our colleagues more than our families.

Why then are so many working environments not designed for ‘living’?
Johnson Wax Building interior image

Early modernists believed the office was a machine for focussed work and productivity. While these qualities are still important to any working environment, the way in which we work has largely changed. Developments in technology and communication have resulted in hotdesking, working from home and even working from abroad.

The freedom and flexibility these offer certainly compliment our busy lifestyles, but are they in fact making us more distant from our peers?

The thought of working from home is often an appealing one… no structured hours, dress code or harrowing commute! All very good, but the insular nature of it is surely not conducive to a healthy society. I can contact anyone at the touch of a button but where is the gossip, banter and fun of working with PEOPLE? I’m also not convinced that working from home would increase my productivity*.

The slide at Google HQ

If the new office is about social interaction and the sharing of knowledge, could it become the adult playground?

One example which pushes this notion to the extreme is the Google HQ in Zurich. The building brings staff together in a fun environment – complete with slide – to promote social interaction and communication. They believed that productivity could be increased by ensuring staff are happy and relaxed. This investment has been proven to also improve staff retention and reduction in sick leave.

Relaxation spaces at Google HQ

Some of the unconventional features of the building were a result of the users being heavily involved in the design process. The importance of this level of staff consultation is supreme… but probably an entire other discussion.

Informal meeting space. Redbull office. Sydney

Of course a slide or fireman’s pole is not appropriate for all workplaces, but as our lives become more focussed around work, that element of ‘living’ is increasingly important.

*As I write this blog from my laptop at home, It has taken far longer than it should due to distractions like magazines and Facebook (and an episode of Jeremy Kyle I’m not proud to admit!). If working from home is a way of the future, I’m not sure it’s for me…

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