Who doesn’t know it from old films and stories: the writing room. It was the first step in the development of the office. Then came Taylorism, with its mechanistic view of humanity and its rational division of labour. Workers could scarcely see the overall context of their work because the individual work steps were hermetically sealed off from one another. The interfaces, however, were precisely defined. The knowledge economy broke through this in-the-box thinking and simultaneously initiated a series of different office concepts.
After cubicle offices, team offices, open offices and other layouts, we are headed in the direction of the Creative Office. What is that? An overall concept with a high level of differentiation. Because the offices of tomorrow have to be viewed in their entirety and designed for diversity. Just like their users, workflows and communicative processes demand. Therefore it is crucial that, in addition to the traditional workspace, diverse zones are available, such as a business lounge, meeting spaces, think-tanks, presentation areas, a Coffice and spaces for encounter of varying quality and size. In other words, the office of the future is clearly not a monotone, uniform place; instead, it is a colourful landscape, similar to an urban space with a wide variety of inspiring areas.
Ideally, the structure of modern offices doesn't constrict workers - quite the contrary: it provides an exciting, motivating atmosphere that is freely usable. This redefines the workspace: the entire office becomes a workspace, an expansion of the classic "focus" desk. Knowledge workers can better navigate the complex, varying requirements that are placed upon them. Because changing spaces creates vision and free space for more creativity and efficient teamwork.
Apropos "diverse needs": according to a 2008 study by Gensler, there are four ways of working that the offices of the future should support – focussing, learning, collaborating, and socialising. This puts us very close to the idea of the "Creative Office". Because of course this kind of office needs zones for concentration where people are undisturbed, where they can work without distractions, with private spaces that facilitate research, design and reflection.
Other areas serve specifically to promote exchange. Formal or informal discussions are conducted here, whether planned or spontaneous. Because, as we know, the best ideas come from working together. It is not only inspiration that occurs here, but also space. Chatting, taking notes, writing, conferencing, presenting, learning – the diversity of space promotes a diversity of perspectives. Assuming all participants are flexible and open.
There is no standardised concept of what mix of zones and areas is ideal for companies. The requirements and solution possibilities are as individual as the people involved. The design of modern offices always starts with a process of self-analysis. The goal is not simply to "arrange furniture", but rather "to make corporate identity visible".
There are already a whole series of interesting companies that have implemented this idea very effectively. Visit the corporate consulting group of Deloitte in Vienna, and this message becomes clear immediately: in the smartly designed reception, every visitor can see seminar and meeting rooms, as well as a library. Visitors feel as if they have been instantly integrated into an atmosphere of expertise and knowledge; that doesn’t just make an impression, it will be remembered. Applied spatial psychology, so to say.
Another example: when you enter the Santander Consumer Bank in Mönchengladbach in Germany, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a café. People are welcomed and taken care of. People inevitably feel as if they are at home. This emotional entry makes building trust easier. An image of banking that is not distant, but rather accessible and very human.
Emotion content is becoming more significant in office design in general – not just from a customer perspective, but also for employees. Roman Muschiol, author of "Quality of encounters in office buildings", formulates this as follows: "To encourage productivity in the knowledge sector over the long term, we must promote the emotional factors. Thus, the feel-good quality in the office is not an end in itself." In other words, one could say that "when you feel good you perform better".
The cultural space in which an office is located can also be relevant for its design. For some time, we have been articulating the rediscovery of the regional as a counter-trend to global networking. Local business cycles and local identities are being revaluated. Even with worldwide networking, people are searching for a sense of their own roots, which often finds expression in office design. An office in Stockholm will look different than one in Vienna or Florence. This, of course, is attributed to culturally different work styles: in Scandinavian countries, a mobile work style has long been established, while this is only slowly taking hold in German-speaking cultures. In Holland, the communicative openness of the Dutch led to the integration of lounges and informal communication areas in office designs as early as the 1990s. In France and Italy, mobile work styles still remain insignificant. This diversity is really quite logical - because why shouldn’t office landscapes convey different identities, as do city landscapes? But we knew that already.