What’s New May Be What Is Disappearing

Office Cubicles

I remember when I first went to work in the traditional office in the early 1970s, one sat at their desk and remained focused on their work. Interaction with co-workers was seen as not getting one’s work done. Collaboration was not encouraged because work was broken down into discrete actions that a single person was responsible for completing. Cubicle sales peaked in 2000 when they accounted for 37% of all office furniture sales.

“The journey is actually seen as beneficial because as people are working in different ways, you are not expecting them to be only working in one place, therefore work is a kind of continuous activity and you are always thinking” said Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris who noted that when he started his career, the focus was getting from the elevator to one’s desk as quickly as possible. The change in perspective has only been evolving in the last decade. According to Philip Tidd of Gensler, large corporations have realized that packing employees tightly into spaces does not result in greater productivity. He said “Your productivity is not measured by the amount of time you sit behind a thing called a desk. It is what you do . . . where you can get in a zone of concentration.”

So, what’s new now is what is disappearing – the desk and “the corner office” (that perk of the successful executive that is rarely there to occupy that space). The cross-fertilization of many minds contributing to solutions and business products is now being encouraged in the architecture of some of the biggest names in the economy. This according to an interesting article published in The Guardian titled – “Death of the desk: the architects shaping offices of the future” by Shane Hickey published Sept 14, 2014. Many of those names – HOK and Gensler notably – are quite familiar to our business from long years of providing architects and interior designers with quality recycled-content materials for the built environment.

Apple O Building

Apple O Building

Apple’s O Building gave rise to a funny cartoon but the design by Norman Foster had a serious purpose. The concept was meant to facilitate collaboration between workers. The building real estate will include 80% green space and during 75% of a year, there will be no need for air-conditioning because the building will take advantage of the natural climate. The energy for the building will come from a large array of solar collectors on the roof.

The BBC’s new Broadcasting House headquarters in central London has large units similar to American diner booths in common areas where staff can have chance meetings. The interior including all carpets and fabrics (which was designed by architects HOK) have been tested for the screen. Filming can now take place across the whole building according to Andy Baker, who oversees the corporation’s London locations. Even the radio studios have been integrated in with glassed areas that cut the space they need.

Though working in an isolated and much smaller structure than these giants, our family business is conducive to interaction and collaboration as we all do our work in a large open plan space where no one has to do more than turn to face the other to have a meeting of the minds for strategy and long range planning. Help with a technical issue or sticky situation is always close at hand.

Treadmill Desk

Treadmill Desk

Back in May of 2013, I was inspired by an article in The New Yorker by Susan Orlean titled “The Walking Alive – Don’t stop moving” in which the author writes about her treadmill desk and how when she couldn’t run, she decided to walk. I was so inspired, I thought that I might want one. Instead, I decided to incorporate a little break once or twice a day for a little hike alongside the creek and back to refresh my mind and move my body. I don’t have a traditional desk. My laptop is on a stand with a view of the wild forest out my window. Next to me is a rolling cart for my current work projects with bin like sliding shelves. I am happy with the arrangement.

A little more than a year later, the same proponent and expert from The New Yorker article (Dr James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University’s Obesity Solutions Initiative) re-emerged with the same passion in a Sept 8-15, 2014 Time Magazine article – “Stand Up for Yourself” by Alice Park. This time my partner took the message to heart and is trying out standing at his desk instead of sitting. Whether it is a long-term change or a novel experiment remains to be seen.

~ Information Resources

“Death of the desk: the architects shaping offices of the future” by Shane Hickey posted in The Guardian on Sept 14, 2014 – http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/sep/14/office-designs-apple-bbc-google

“New Apple Headquarters” featured in Business Interiors posted Dec 13, 2013 – http://www.businessinteriors.co.uk/new-apple-headquarters-best-office-building-world-designed-london/

“The Walking Alive” by Susan Orlean posted in The New Yorker on May 20, 2013 – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/05/20/the-walking-alive

“Standing Up Helps Your Health” by Alice Park posted in Time magazine on Aug 28, 2014 – http://time.com/3204289/stand-up-for-your-health/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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