Bob Fox The Designer Corner
Workspace Impacts Work Culture
R ecently, I participated in a focus group for the book Change Your Space, Change Your Culture , which looks at what affects performance in the workplace. Driven by research showing that nearly 70% of the workforce is disengaged, we focused much of our energy on issues of engagement and culture. Every organization has a unique culture. Space is one tool that can shift or change that culture. Your space becomes the context for the organization’s culture. It reinforces the culture because you need consistency between the way the space is designed and how people interact in it, with the leadership and the goals of the organization. Today’s economy has changed. In Economics 101, we learned about Adam Smith: land, labor, and capital were the basis of the economy. Now, business is driven by ideas, information, experiences, knowledge, and human connections. To avoid disruptive change, you must create a workplace where the power of the idea can be iterated and leveraged in sustaining the organization. We are in a period of immense change and the old workplace doesn’t support this kind of ideation. Private offices for senior managers and leadership inhibit the ability
we’re seeing a greater variety of different types of workspaces. There are probably 40 or 50 different types of spaces that we could design to support collaboration. It might be a big conference room or a small conference room. It might be a little seating alcove or a café. It could be an audio-visual screen, or even a media:scape-type station with built-in video.The value is in matching your culture. Your office space communicates your culture and brand to every person who walks into your office space. They immediately gain an understanding of what the business is about. The old command and control structure, which we’ve grown up in with, is dying. Traditionally, we’ve tried to standardize, minimize, cut, reduce, and maximize efficiency, and what has it done? Essentially it’s inhibited how people work together. You can’t have an effective environment where everything has been completely standardized; you have to have some flexibility. Today’s office is a tool that enables an organization to generate, sustain, iterate, and build ideas, as opposed to just the “place” to which people show up every day. Bob Fox founded Washington, D.C.’s FOX Architects, specializing in architecture, interiors and graphics for the commercial office industry. He advises clients to ensure strategic objectives and workplace performance expectations are achieved. In 2010, Bob started Work Design Magazine , the online publication providing independent and unbiased information on the workplace focusing on research, culture, and design that influence the workplace and how people work, and providing a forum for users, experts and design professionals to share information, ideas, and inspiration.
for those ideas to get out, get discussed, and grow into something that’s going to serve the company. There is, of course, still a need for private areas and concentration space. These spaces may be assigned or unassigned. Simple desks do not have the capacity to deal with all the activities and tasks that are necessary to effectively drive a business forward today. As a result, we’re seeing a greater variety of different workspaces. It’s all about interaction and collaboration and building upon ideas. That’s the essence of what is necessary to sustain a business moving forward and maintaining it long into the future. This increased focus on collaboration is one of the most important innovations of the past two decades, but that means the space has to shift from the individual to the community. Individual offices and individual work areas have gotten smaller, and community spaces have gotten much larger. As mentioned,
If your organization is getting ready to build, purchase, lease, or adapt your space, it is imperative that you have the following: • An appropriate budget • An understanding of your technological needs and how to integrate technology into the work life of your people • An appreciation of sustainability factors (primarily good air and natural light) • A layout that balances a collaborative environment with quiet spaces for deep functioning
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