A new era for office design and working culture

Area Europe talks about the evolution of workplaces. We are not facing the ‘death of the office’, but the rise of collaborative workspaces based on personalisation.

“The office will continue to play an essential role, but that does not mean it won’t change” says Lee Day, Director at Area Europe. “The challenge for organisations is to offer people the technology, spaces and cultures that allow them to work in the right ways and strike the right balances for themselves as individuals and adapt them over time.”

It’s often said that any idea repeated often enough develops some form of legitimacy. The past year has thrown up a number of examples of this, most notably in the idea of the ‘death of the office’. This normally goes hand in hand with an example drawn from a Big tech firm that ignores the details of the working policies they have actually announced, not to mention the fact that a firm like Amazon has just unveiled its plans to create nearly 3 million sq. ft. of office space at its new US headquarters.

The truth is that people will always want to come together to work. That won’t change. What will change is the way in which that happens and also the places in which it happens. That is why we have argued that this may be something of a new and fascinating era for office design and working culture.

Allen is mostly commonly associated with The Allen Curve, which he introduced in his 1984 book Managing the Flow of Technology. The famous curve that bears his name graphs his research findings, showing a negative correlation between physical distance and the frequency of communication between colleagues. So precisely can this be defined, that Allen found that 50 metres marks a cut-off point for the regular exchange of certain types of technical information.

Of course all of this was pre-Internet, so in 2006, Allen co-authored a book called The Organization and Architecture of Innovation with German architect Gunter Henn. The book explores how physical space, social networks, flows of information and organisational structure must be integrated to drive innovation.

What it finds is that far from lessening in importance, the building is gaining a more prominent, if different role and that the physical distance between individuals is an essential element in the development of working relationships and the way ideas and information flow. Physical space is integral to innovation.

The book makes the following point based on its research: “Rather than finding that the probability of telephone communication increases with distances, as face to face probability decays, our data shows a decay in the use of all communication media with distance. We do not keep separate sets of people, some of which we communicate in one medium and some by another. The more often we see someone face to face, the more likely it is that we will telephone the person or communicate in some other medium.”

This is likely to be more or less true even with the communication tools at our disposal now. Certainly, the growing fatigue with communication mediated entirely by technology has worn thin, even as we acknowledge its usefulness and functionality.

To read the full piece, visit: https://www.area.co.uk/news-kn...