Reimag­in­ing Of­fice Di­vides

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Motoring - Text: Kayla Cloete Im­age © is­tock­

Back in the 1900s, of­fice spa­ces were de­signed to re­sem­ble crop cir­cles, with busy busi­ness­peo­ple out­fit­ted in suites and ties or stock­ings and high-heeled shoes fran­ti­cally typ­ing away at their desks while star­ing into a black, veldt cu­bi­cal di­vider.

Thank­fully, these out­dated no­tions of a di­vided workspace or­gan­ised by hi­er­ar­chi­cal cat­e­gories of im­por­tance are slowly be­gin­ning to fade away, along with the ego­tis­ti­cal “my of­fice is big­ger than yours” sorts of con­ver­sa­tions that reg­u­larly oc­curred around the wa­ter cooler.

Ini­tially only re­served for cre­ative in­dus­tries, the co-work­ing of­fice space has evolved into so much more than just an open plan work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, which al­lows for the free flow of ideas and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween col­leagues. Today, the co-work­ing of­fice is a bud­get­friendly de­sign con­cept which al­lows var­i­ous busi­nesses to share of­fice space de­spite not shar­ing the same work.

With the on­go­ing eco­nomic re­ces­sion, many busi­nesses have had to opt for co-work­ing of­fice lay­outs in or­der to ac­com­mo­date their own in­ter­nal ex­pan­sion. In a co-work­ing of­fice setup, busi­nesses hire out an un­used sec­tion of a larger cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion, or rent out a space of their own and al­low other busi­ness to share the space by con­tribut­ing to the cost of the rent. The re­sults of these co-work­ing spa­ces have brought up many fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cov­er­ies re­gard­ing the psy­chol­ogy of the work place.

For starters, co-work­ing spa­ces re­move the iso­la­tion of work­ing in in­di­vid­ual of­fices, and al­lows for more in­ter­change­able forms of as­sis­tance. It is much eas­ier to ask for ad­vice and feed­back when there is some­body seated across from you, than it is to ask for ad­vice when the per­son is sit­ting be­hind a closed door on the other side of the room.

In co-work­ing spa­ces, the time to dis­cuss in­ter-of­fice pol­i­tics is dras­ti­cally min­i­malised. With Jan­nie and San­nie each work­ing for his and her own boss and deal­ing with their own set of in­ter­nal frus­tra­tions, the op­por­tu­nity for un­healthy in­for­mal dis­cus­sions about com­pany griev­ances have less room in which to arise.

There are other ben­e­fits de­rived from spa­ces which af­ford em­ploy­ees the chance to work with peo­ple who have cho­sen a dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sion from their own. For many of us, how we have cho­sen to earn our in­come forms a large part of how we con­struct our own iden­tity – I am a lawyer / teacher / writer, and choose to as­so­ciate my­self with many of the con­no­ta­tions which sur­round that pro­fes­sion (for ex­am­ple, lawyers have a way with words, teach­ers are good with chil­dren, writ­ers are cre­ative).

When we work with peo­ple who have cho­sen a dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sion, we are given the chance to ex­plain a part of our own iden­tity. This strength­ens our own sense of self, and con­trib­utes to a stronger work ethic. Proud in our own dis­tinct pro­fes­sion, we tend to work harder as we are re­minded that we are liv­ing out our own pas­sion and our own choices.

How­ever, co-work­ing spa­ces can also cre­ate an un­pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment which is dis­rup­tive and vex­ing. Some divi­sion of space does still need to be al­lo­cated in or­der to se­cure com­pany pro­duc­tiv­ity. For ex­am­ple, a room ought to be des­ig­nated for meet­ing pur­poses only. If a dis­cus­sion which will last longer than five min­utes needs to take place, it ought to take place in this room, away from the com­mu­nal work­ing space. A sep­a­rate lunch room ought also to be in­cluded in the de­sign, so that em­ploy­ees can chat to the peo­ple around them in a space sep­a­rate from those who pre­fer to work in si­lence.

More­over, with more peo­ple work­ing in the same space, at­ten­tion ought to be paid to the in­te­rior styling of the space. Fur­ni­ture needs to be cho­sen wisely, and get­ting the lay­out of the floor-space cor­rect is es­sen­tial in or­der to cre­ate a flow that fos­ters ef­fi­ciency rather than frus­tra­tion.

Cu­bi­cal de­sign work­ing spa­ces are slowly be­com­ing a dis­tant mem­ory along with the likes of the fax ma­chine and CRT com­puter mon­i­tors. This might spell bad news for the recluse who prefers his pri­vacy, but for every­one else, the co-work­ing of­fice pro­vides a pos­i­tive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment char­ac­terised by pro­duc­tiv­ity.

With the on­go­ing eco­nomic re­ces­sion, many busi­nesses have had to opt for co-work­ing of­fice lay­outs in or­der to ac­com­mo­date their own in­ter­nal ex­pan­sion.

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