I just need some space!

The proliferation of social media and all the many technology tools we have are mostly designed to make us more productive – in our professional and personal lives. Yet, as David Allen points out in the New York Times recently, many of us feel less productive than ever! Allen suggests that to solve this issue, rather than throw even more organizational tools at us, we need to “create a structure for capturing, clarifying and organizing all the forces that assail us; and to ensure time and space for thinking, reflecting and decision making.”

Allen’s article appears in the NYT Sunday Business feature, Reshaping the Workplace, and is alongside a piece by Lawrence W. Cheek about office design. The point of these two and other articles in this interesting feature is that how office spaces are designed will mean more for worker productivity, fulfillment and creativity than other solutions we’ve employed until now. Google, DreamWorks, G.E. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the organizations cited as examples of innovatively designed workspaces. These take into consideration critical factors like: what does an open floor plan mean for introverts? how can I keep information confidential and conversations private if I’m in the middle of thirty co-workers?  how can I concentrate with all this noise all around me all the time?

Workspaces have evolved, as have many other work-related areas – the result of decades of study. Things like flex-time, tele-commuting, job sharing and a range of other innovations have contributed to the satisfaction and engagement of many of us. 

Which innovations like these have meant the most to you, to the world of work in general? I’d be interested to hear!


About Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann
Global corporate communication, business, and organization behavior executive; author. My blog, DesigningCommunication, offers inspiration, insight, and tips for all professionals who want to express themselves effectively, and lead with integrity.

One Response to I just need some space!

  1. Jerry Carducci says:

    You pose a very challenging question. As part of a white paper (Workplace 2.0 – Dawn of a New Age published in April 2011) several colleagues and I took a 360 degree look at the future workplace; space and layout included.

    Distributed workforces and advancements in technology are, and will continue to change how and where we work and place less demand for centralized office space. This makes the type and quality of work space increasingly more important and it must align with organizational objectives and nature of the work being performed.

    The central office environment will continue to be a place where people connect, collaborate and maintain a sense of importance. True, private offices are decreasing in popularity, favoring more open areas which reduce “personalized” space. With this trend a range of spaces need to be incorporated in designing the work environment; collaborative (team based work), individual (reflection, thinking and decision making) and socialized work (i.e. networking, mentoring, and sharing).

    While there are many ways to accomplish this, a graduate student from Shanghi China contributed to our paper, offering some highly creative ideas. One represents somewhat of a throw-back to designs of the late 20th Century that are modular, Lego type, and easily assembled and disassembled. Her designs went a step further by incorporating contemporary needs with features that provide for personalized and collaborative space that create team, learning and social atmospheres.

    While the layout for the Gates Foundation may work for them and reflect the nature of work, it would not be conducive to one that is geared toward say software development. So layout, like anything else today is situational.

    When designing workspace the organization’s culture, goals and the message it wants to convey internally and externally need to be at the top of the list of considerations. Equally important are individual needs as well as that of the work being performed.


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