Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Offices. Do we need ‘em?

A client I work with recently opened a new property. I’ll be honest; it’s freaking beautiful. They did a great job with the design. The customer area are spacious, and the restaurants and lounges are inviting. The décor reflects the region's southwestern influences perfectly. The back of house areas are well laid out and the offices are very comfortable.

But my question is… do we even NEED traditional offices anymore? You know, a little room with a desk, a chair, a filing cabinet, and a lamp designed for one person to work in? I mean, who FILES anything anymore? Paper? Are you kidding? That’s what google docs are for.

I don’t know about you, but in my line of work I’m rarely in my office. I’m in meetings, working on an event in one of our venues, or travelling to meet with a vendor or client more often than I’m sitting at my desk. It’s not like I stand at a machine press making widgets 8 hours a day. I do the vast majority of my work using e-mail, the internet, and my cell phone.

Really, I could do virtually all my work, well… virtually! Online. With my smart phone I can do 90% of the exact same tasks I do in a typical day at the office from, say, a beach chair in Thailand, or a barstool in New Orleans.

If anyone had asked me, I would have recommended a different approach to the new office solution. Rather than designing several small offices for one person to work in, I envision a “bullpen” sort of area. A large, comfortable room -equipped with wireless internet- and furnished with sofas, coffee tables, and comfortable chairs. I’d have some flat screen TVs w/ DVD players on the walls, and an awesome coffee machine. Better yet, a Starbucks across the street!

I’d also have a large conference room (to fit the entire department) and a small conference room (for one on ones or small meetings). Equip the team with smart phones and laptops and you’re off to the races!

Employees could use the communal room to work from, in a more stimulating atmosphere than a closed-off office or cubicle. This environment would generate interaction, creativity, brain-storming, and sharing of ideas. When meeting with clients or breaking off into smaller meetings, then conference rooms could be used. If someone really needed some privacy they could reserve the small conference room. Or work from a remote location... say, home?

I’d also revisit the idea that employees have to be physically sitting in their cubicle 8 hours a day in order to be productive. I understand that supervisors need to have a way to hold staff accountabl (and ensure that work is actually getting done) but I also think that unless you’re dealing with a situation where you physically have to be somewhere to do the work- i.e. the assembly line or customer service scenarios I referenced earlier- technology allows a great deal of flexibility in this area.

Hire good people and let them do good work. If someone's goofing off and not pulling their weight, fire them. If you have to chain someone to a desk so Big Brother can watch them and make sure they're doing their work, somebody's doing something wrong.

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