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Workplaces for the Digital Age
"We found that rectangles or squares or long buildings or buildings with more than four stories would inhibit collaboration."
& Raja Bose MSc, MBA, Performance Buildings AG
Edited & Published by
there has been considerable activity in workplace design, with
research and experimentation undertaken by academics, consultants,
architects and suppliers of office equipment.
All these stakeholders are trying to understand how we can design and build smarter workplaces for the Digital Age.
A generic framework for workplace comfort (ie: needs) has been proposed by Dr Jacqueline Vischer at the University of Montreal (The Concept of Workplace Performance and Its Value to Managers, California Management Review, Vol 49, No. 2, Winter 2006). Her framework echoes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Above the Threshold of Habitability (which establishes minimum requirements for enabling people to work) she defines three levels of comfort.
Determined by standards on safety, hygiene, temperature, etc and influenced by the designer. In most modern buildings it is guaranteed and is increasingly aided by buildings automation technology, such as security and climate control.
This concerns the effectiveness of workspaces in helping people perform their work, and depends on lighting, furniture ergonomics, room design, etc.
In our view, Functional Comfort must
include the actual Functional Use
of space, for example, lobby and reception area, Board Room, meeting
room, workshop and brainstorm room, areas for collision with
Thus, a reception area need not just be
for check-in and check-out of
visitors, since these can be automated, but could be transformed into a
hospitality center, where the receptionist’s job changes from handing
out, collecting and logging badges in a register to a concierge,
serving visitors personally.
Psychological Comfort is about linking “psychosocial aspects with environmental design and management of the workspace through territoriality, privacy, and control.”
Psychological Comfort, where we move from the influence of things to the influence of people in the workplace, is by definition a dynamic and messy state, subject to societal changes (social media, Gen X and Y employees, and beyond), technology changes (connectivity and mobility), workstyle changes (anywhere, any time, on the move), and workplace changes (flexibility, office on demand, co-working hubs).
For example, Vischer claims that studies
have shown people consider
negatively moving out of private offices into open workstations,
because of reductions in privacy, acoustic ambience and
confidentiality, and these have clear implications for workspace
design. Yet, private offices inhibit chance encounters and informal
exchanges. Many workspaces are deliberately being designed for people
a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of
innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed
the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the
central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.” Steve Jobs
The design of the new Apple HQ, started with an understanding of how people should work:
Figure 4 Apple HQ
This need for adaptability of workplace
design to meet changing needs
is made clear in Cisco’s Report, Office Design Case
Study: How Cisco
designed the collaborative connected workplace environment:
"The work environment we've been building is not necessarily what employees need.” Christine Ross, manager in the Workplace Effectiveness Team for Cisco Workplace Resources (WPR).
To date, most initiatives in workplace
design have concentrated on
physical implementation -
Physical and Functional Comfort - through
ergonomic furniture design, room layouts, creation of flexible spaces,
architecture, interior design, and building automation.
In future articles, we will discuss the
role of technology in
understanding and serving workplace needs. Based on hard, occupancy
statistics and constructing evidence-based Use Cases, technology can
create solutions that free up people to do their work wherever they are
and not waste time on mundane processes like inviting and managing
visitors, booking meeting rooms, organizing brainstorms, ordering AV
equipment and catering, and so on. Just like turning receptionists into
value-adding concierges and letting technology take care of security.
This article was authored by Vishal
Mallick PhD & Raja Bose MSc,
MBA from Performance
Buildings AG, whose technology reduces consumption
of resources in buildings and enables new services for users. The
article was edited by and 1st published on Memoori.
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