For all those cash-rich companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook, there is a race to hire celebrity architects to design their headquarters. Google headquarters consists of nine angled buildings connected by bridges. Reportedly, the idea was based on data collected from Google employees’ behavior which then translated into some kind of architectural algorithm that should produce “casual collisions” to make innovation happen more often.
I am not buying this, well they are. I guess when you have too much money to play with… When 3D virtual conferencing technology comes to market, these companies will be the early adopters. Expect cool walk-in facilities outfitted with wall-sized screens that project 360-degree views of video conference participants from different offices or countries.
The last time business attempted to reinvent the workplace was during the dot.com days when many companies switched from cubicles to open offices in order to improve collaboration and encourage impromptu problem solving. Today, millennials demand more personal workspace flexibility (actually they demand many things too) – the ability to adapt a workstation or stand at their desks. Standing work is happening everywhere as much as working on a couch. In addition to personal storage and personal expression, companies need to accommodate for this preference. At Idea Couture, standing desk is becoming so popular (not sure I remember who in our office started that) and now I see people standing, jumping while typing (wearing their Fitbits) and talking on the phone.
I really can’t wait for the day when we start banning standard cubicles and those headache-inducing white fluorescent lights. Those light scan literally give me migraine. I wish those standard cubicles would join the ranks of the fax machine and the time-punch clock. It just might happen, thanks to Google, Apple and Pixar and others who have started to embrace the idea of cool workspaces designed to stimulate creativity and inspire innovation. I don’t mean those that put up colorful wallpaper and a few beanbags; that’s no better than a cubicle. Workspaces can be stressful environments and it is important to think about how we can design to reduce stress, not just create colorful eye-candy.
Most workspace stress can come from any physical conditions that you perceive as irritating, frustrating, uncomfortable or unpleasant. Common sources of workspace stress include poor lighting, noisy backgrounds, lack of fresh air and poor climate conditions. But the biggest potential stress is other people. Difficult people can cause so much stress, particularly with the demand for team collaboration. Can a cool office space solve this problem? Perhaps to a certain small degree.
Physical workspaces have a profound impact on increasing not just productivity but also team creativity and collaboration. That’s part of the reason why Google and Facebook designed their offices with people sitting side-by-side and no partitions between them. An open environment radiates a sense of community where creative spaces calm people down and remind them there is a creative solution to any problem. Cubicles remind you that the office is a machine and you must follow processes and procedures. If your company isn’t thinking about how workspace design can improve collaboration, chances are you are stuck in the 80s. This is a good forum to debate on this subject on how creativity is endangered in New York Times.
These days everyone wants to collaborate with each other (those who can’t are pretty much considered unemployable); the average employee actively participates in at least five different ad hoc teams simultaneously, and we can expect that number to rise. Creative workplace design that supports collaboration will be part of the new productivity index. And you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money, perhaps let’s start with a policy for pets … creativity starts here.