By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
The way we work has changed a lot thanks to technology and innovation. We can now have meetings across countries and continents, share documents and desktops seamlessly, as well as work from home, or anywhere, really; yet be totally connected through messaging and email. Collaboration is possible on a granular level, thanks to cloud computing which helps expand the possibilities of time and space.
Despite all these technological leaps, our workspaces have remained constant, unchanged and desperately dated. Clinging on to work habits and realities established decades ago, many offices are cubicle mazes or rows of tables surrounded by artificially lit fixtures.
Rethinking Workspaces to focus on creativity and collaboration
Heavy desks and cluttered offices are deterrents to human interaction, they weigh workers down and kill spirit and creativity.
There are other challenges, too, in today’s workplace. We now have up to four generations working together in offices. Just think of your grandparents, parents and possibly co-workers the age of your children working along with you, and you can imagine various areas where communication, generation gaps and even simple language can be complete barriers to productivity
A recent partnership between Microsoft and furniture and fixture company Steelcase imagines a creative solution to all this by blending the best technology has to offer with inspired interiors designed to foster a spirit of creativity across different worker types and generations. Steelcase has divided the office into ‘Me’ and ‘We’ spaces.
‘Me,’ spaces include open concept cubicles that range from your traditional sitting or standing desk set-ups but also other variations like a Focus Room where individuals can work on intensive tasks without being bothered by outside distractions. There are also pods or reclining chairs that are supportive enough to keep users relaxed, but not so much so that they will fall asleep on the job.
In these pods, workers can collaborate using meeting apps or they can work on their computers in a less-rigorous setting.
Rooms for Respite, a necessary innovation
Balancing work and rest is important, so Steelcase has ‘Respite Rooms,’ designed for unwinding, meditation and for engaging in the principles of relaxation to combat stress. Individual think time is important, and the Respite Room concept is a critical ‘Me’ space that the company believes can better help individuals maintain balanced work lives. What about ‘We’ spaces?
Millennials like to collaborate, so open spaces and inviting areas where they can take their laptops, smartphones, tablets and have meetings are necessary ‘We’ spaces. Microsoft outfitted these areas with Surface devices, including Surface Laptops, Surface Pros and an 84-inch Surface Hub, which is a high definition TV that doubles as a whiteboard for notes which can be fed into people’s devices for reference after the meeting (no need to scramble to copy notes). The Surface Hub also has 2-way cameras and can be used to conference with offsite staff.
Other unique workspaces include meeting rooms adjacent to a pantry so that food, or drinks are easily available.
This way, there’s little need to go out for lunch while in the middle of a meeting. Granted, not all of these office concepts will work for all users, they do offer a range of options that are a refreshing change over older and more traditional workspaces.