Office design has changed significantly over the last 100 years. At the start of the 20thcentury, engineer and efficiency obsessive Frederick Taylor proposed rigid lines of open-plan desks with bosses looking out from their offices.
Jump through the years and bosses still sit in offices, but out on the floor we’ve seen Herman Miller’s 1960’s modular, 1980’s cube farms, 1990’s hot-desking and 21st-century pods and play areas. And now, phone-box size rooms for one (see photo) seem to be the new thing.
Where we work plays a big part in how we feel about it and, therefore, how well we do it.
We need to be comfortable, but not too comfortable that we drift away. We need to be connected, but not so connected that we can’t focus. Being surrounded by your team, able to interact and bounce ideas sounds buzzy and great, but I often see open-plan workspaces with people wearing headphones because they can’t concentrate or escaping to meeting rooms for some peace and quiet. It can be challenging just getting things done.
I have to be able to see outside from where I’m working, I need to see the sky and have light. My husband prefers to be cocooned, to shut the world out completely and work with the blinds closed and the lights dimmed. As you can imagine, we don’t share an office, but what we do share is having a space that works and, importantly, a space that flexes, with options on where to sit and how to work.
It’s interesting how many potential candidates don’t get offered – or ask for – a tour of the office when they go for interview. Reception areas and the meeting room you get shown to might not be a true reflection of where you’ll be working. I know, I made that mistake once.
I was interviewed in a clean, modern meeting room, got walked across the snazzy executive floor and shown the lovely, new canteen but (quite possibly in a deliberate move) no-one offered to show me where I’d actually be working and I ended up in my personal hell – an untidy, damp basement with no windows and an unidentifiable aroma. Never again!
Psychologist Teresa Amabile has done some fascinating work in this area where she talks about how we need to find the right environment for us to be creative. Watch her video on Creativity & Motivation.
And, for me, that right environment where we can create is a place where we are both happy and productive.
There are few offices where you can just decide where you want to sit and what you want around you so I accept it’s not always possible to choose, but if you want to be happier at work, try as Amabile says: “To get more of the right things and eliminate the bad.”
If you’d like to be happier at work, contact me for some Career Therapy…