What is an office for?


I haven’t worked in an office — a proper office — since 2008. Back then, I had a cubicle plastered with sticky notes and a desk chair of questionable ergonomic value. I had meetings in the conference room, lunch at my desk. I had colleagues in cubicles nearby for advice and gossip. I had mice who left the tiny evidence of their nightly visits in my desk drawers.

Now my desk faces a wall covered in sticky notes and my chair is still of questionable ergonomic value — but that desk is in my home. My meetings are over the phone or Skype, and most exchanges are by email or text. It’s quiet. I don’t waste time commuting, and I can even throw in a load of laundry when I get the chance.

More people, not just freelancers like me, are choosing to work remotely. A 2018 survey by an alternative office space provider gleefully reported that 70 percent of workers worldwide work remotely at least once a week. Some people are suggesting that startups shouldn’t bother to get office space at all. I recently interviewed the two founders of an app-making company, one of whom lived in New York and the other in Georgia. They rarely met face to face.

So if I don’t need an office, and if the 5 percent of Americans who only work remotely don’t need an office, and if the 70 percent of people already working remotely some of the time don’t need one, and if startups don’t, then who does? What is an office actually for?

Designing for productivity

The corporate office as we know it is a relatively new invention. In the early part of the 20th century, offices were factories for paperwork — rows of desks, filled with rows of clerks; higher-ups had private offices, often ringing the factory floor. Mid-century efforts introduced efficiency metrics to the mix, but no one was able to really quantify productivity. The open plan, a descendent of the paperwork factory, was championed by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright to promote collaboration and to break down walls, both literally and socially. In the late 1960s, the cubicle was invented as a futuristic attempt to marry how people actually worked with the efficiency that was supposed to come with an open plan.

Read more: https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/What-is-an-office-for?gko=69eec


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