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The logic behind the next generation office

If you’ve been wondering why it seems that so many companies are redesigning their offices lately, well you’re not alone. For every article I come across showcasing a cool, new layout – check out the offices of Airbnb, or LivingSocial for example – got me thinking why? What’s the logic behind all these new designs? We all hear how these new offices function as “a great recruiting tool however, did you know that there is more behind it than that?

Over the last several years, the way in which people work has changed. According to Knoll research, the reasons why we’re seeing these amazing and unconventional office designs is because of the development of a new work style.

Integrated Work

According to a recent Knoll research paper, “we are seeing a shift away from the classic ‘command and control’ business model, in which the organization is designed as a pyramid, with top down leadership.”  This organizational flattening is effecting not only how and organization is designed, but also how employees do work. “The team or group is now the basic unit of work and their work products are knowledge-based and, thus, often intangible.” With the technological advancements made over the past decade, it’s become incredibly easy to communicate with one another. This has made collaboration integral element in teams getting work done. This has led to the view that the collective wisdom of the group is now the driving source of innovation and decision making. “Thus the workplace is becoming a resource, rather than a specific place people e go. “As a result we’re witnessing a new way we work:  what Knolls refers to ‘Integrated work’. Integrated work is broken down into three distinct work modes: Focus, Share and Team.

Focus, Share, Team

Knoll defines Focus is primarily an individual work mode that “supports concentration and reduces interruptions.” People who are engaging in “Focused work” are primarily heads down.  Think of Focus as the times when you’re writing a paper or drafting a PowerPoint. Share is a collaborative work mode where individuals and groups work together in and “centers on the casual exchange of ideas with a small number of colleagues.” Sharing is a means of transferring knowledge between employees, this can include learning and mentoring. Team work is a group work mode related to specific work goals that occurs in formal and informal meeting spaces.  This is usually project-centric work, however it can flow from a more formal form to an informal one and the workspaces that support this type of work work should match this ebb and flow.

What does all this mean for the office?

We’re all familiar with the saying that different people work in different ways, but what do all these various work forms mean for the office? In an age where organizations are striving to get the most out of their employees, it’s important to focus on making the flow of people and ideas between these various work modes easy. “The workplace needs to facilitate the seamless flow of people and information between the work modes.” For example, it’s important for workplaces to make it easy for employees to share ideas with others at different physical locations within a facility – having various designated locations for different types of work. It’s also important to make it easy for employees to switch between the different work styles from their primary work space. This is why we are seeing a rise in all these new, interesting office layouts.

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