Nowadays, more and more is being said about the office becoming a weapon in the battle for talent. The generous benefits offered by a lot of industries have become a public good, and it is only when they are not there that candidates become very surprised. However, there is still little talk about the daily resource that employees use, which could also become a motivating benefit. Yes, it is the office! But does this mean that your office has to transform into a fantastic Google Land, teeming with slides?
Anna Dziadkowiec, Workplace Research & Analysis Consultant
In the life of a company, the office has a number of functions. It is not only a physical space with employees' desks, executive offices and the necessary infrastructure, but also a space for various meetings, exchange of information and thoughts, planning and, above all, intense mental work. The latter seems to be the most obvious function of an office, but is it really well performed today?
Just as the industrial revolution revolutionized its era changing production methods and the approach to work and workers, the rapid and extensive development of technology in the second half of the 20th century brought changes the aftermath of which can be seen in all areas of life. Sociologists even say that a new society has emerged: an information society that owes its existence to the transformation and production of information, in the broadest sense. Knowledge has become the object and subject of trade agreements and one of the pillars of modern state economies. Having or not having specific information has become a resource as such! What is more, a piece of information is autoreproductive and can travel hundreds of kilometres very fast thanks to modern technology. All that has become possible thanks to the development of computers and computer networks on which modern industry is largely based.
Therefore, P. Drucker in his book The Landmarks of Tomorrow pointed out the emergence of a new group of employees, called knowledge workers, already in the 1960s. Initially, the term referred mostly to "highly educated people with two university degrees who had not only the ‘soft’ skills, but also the technical knowledge to enable them to assess the practicality of a new solution or product at a very early stage1.” However, with the development of the industry and the emergence of new professions, this group began to expand more and more in resources, becoming less exclusive. Nowadays, most office workers are knowledge workers who store, process or share knowledge2 , depending on the industry and their position. Their natural rhythm of work is a balance between individual and team work and quiet and loud work. Unfortunately, that balance sometimes turns into a ceaseless battle with oneself and others. And this obviously reduces the effectiveness of work and has a real impact on the final quality of performed tasks. Therefore, a workplace should provide employees with the right spatial solutions that will support them in the performance of their duties. The desk as a fixed workstation within the space of a department is no longer the best answer to that problem.
So why, in spite of the revolutionary changes in the social, economic and cultural life, do our offices still look like those from early 20th century, not much different from the huge factory floors with people working on assembly lines?
All of us have probably experienced the negative impact of work or colleagues on the effectiveness of our working day more than once. Even though we all need a group and the society, isolation is sometimes the best means of fulfilling our tasks. Many of us have come to the office early in the morning just to do as much work as possible before others came in. Or stayed in the office after hours just because this was the best time to do some quiet work. Or worked with our headphones on all the time to create an illusion of quietness in a busy office. But is this really what effective work is about?
As shown by our research of a number of different companies:
74% of respondents say access to a quiet concentrated work area is important in the office.
Nowy Styl Group data based on the analysis of responses provided by 874 employees of different companies (2017).
This is mainly due to the specific nature of their daily work but is also dictated by one of the biggest problems of offices: noise (learn more in our report: How to create a great office space?). Most offices have a typical open-space layout which supports the integration of the company, but has many drawbacks that become part of employee problems every day. What if it was possible to reconcile a rich office life with the need for concentrated work, in isolation from other people?
The perfect solution to this is the right zoning of the office, which will intuitively help employees perform their daily work separating loud from quiet zones, concentration work spots from communication areas and regeneration zones from intense work areas. This may sound complicated but it is just about preparing specific spaces in the office for different activities. Just like at home!
For the sake of efficiency, it is a good idea to provide employees with four different work zones where they can perform their duties in peace, without disturbing their colleagues. It is very important that, while requiring employees to perform certain tasks, the employer should provide them with appropriate work tools. A well-designed office, corresponding to the specific nature of work performed by different departments, can be one of these tools.
Creating a quiet, closed and isolated space of concentration that will allow people to break away from the usual office buzz will definitely improve work efficiency. Both an employee who is focusing on a difficult task and one carrying negotiations over the phone for many hours need a suitable space where they can be cut off from external distractions and will not disturb other people. Although these activities are extremely different from each other, they require maximum attention from those performing them. We therefore recommend installing phone booths, focus rooms and silence rooms in offices, to ensure everyone can find a convenient work space for themselves, depending on their needs.
It is also a good idea to well design the "standard" daily office zone, ie. the space with worker’s desks. A well-designed administration area tailored to the performed duties, where employees spend most of their time, can contribute to greater job satisfaction. And it will certainly facilitate daily tasks. The variety of furniture and acoustic solutions will certainly help those most demanding.
Of course, a worker’s office of the 21st century is not just about a desk and a phone booth. Arranging an office, one should keep the four areas in mind, arranging them according to the needs of the company and employees, because they know best what they need in their daily work. And the office does not necessarily need to be very expensive, packed with rich design and technology. Ideally, it should be intuitive and functional for employees, because they are the main beneficiaries of an office. This is the recipe for the perfect office!
For more inspiration, you are welcome to read our articles or contact us!
 Grudzewski, W.M. Hejduk, I. (2000). Zarządzanie technologiczne wyzwaniem XXI wieku. Przegląd Organizacji 2000, nr 11, s. 7.