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Russell Summers

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What does the modern office really look like?

I am currently arguing with some people about what the current office looks like, do we use laptops, desktops or mobile devices? should it be a combination of all our IT devices?
if we work on the principal that mobile devices or a combination of the above is the forward movement of the office, then why are we still allocating desks? Is there a sense of belonging to a piece of furniture a need to have a corner in the business to call home?
should we provide couches, arm chairs and the likes to allow for move vibrant discussions to take place?
What does the future office look like, and why?

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    Sep 26 2012: A Cell phone and a laptop, anywhere in the world
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    Sep 26 2012: This totally depends on the nature of the business. For an environment full of introverts (e.g. engineers, scientists), it is important to provide both an area of quiet and privacy as well as areas for collaboration. For purely creative environments, the emphasis should be more on collaborative space, with laptops and mobile devices being king.

    Regardless of the nature of the employees, here are a few suggestions to make things run more smoothly:

    - invest in teleconference and video conference / telepresence capability so that people can work from anywhere and still collaborate.
    - Have an abundance of projectors, white boards, and "smart boards" (allows drawings to be transmitted via telepresence or to a PC)
    - Make PowerPoint uncool (not really an office environment idea, but it will surely increase productivity). If people can't stand at a whiteboard and speak to their topic, they likely don't know it well enough.
    - Lots of little enclaves and meeting areas, where people can meet and collaborate, without disturbing those trying to concentrate.
    - Free drinks and snacks. Don't get cheap with the things that lubricate productivity.
    - Billiards table or other table-top game in a common area for people to take a break from thinking for a few minutes.
    - Outdoor space, with seating and a pleasant view.
    - Sound-cancelling headphones as part of the standard PC setup
    - People need a place to belong and call their own. Even though setting everything up like a Starbucks Coffee Shop or a Google Office seems hip, it is important to have a place to put pictures of your family and have a drawer of snacks.
    • Sep 26 2012: I like a lot of those ideas, sound canceling head phones are brilliant for some of our work areas:)
      More whiteboards are also a good idea, we have them in the training room and the board room, but should place them in the basic work areas.

      We are a first aid training facility, and medical supplies facility in Melbourne Australia.

      The reason for the question is I get hammered by our coach that we shouldnt have the furniture, it should be clear and uncluttered, everything should fit. I look at our facility and figure that the average person is feeling uncertain when they arrive for training (we get two days to train a person to save a life, not a lot of time) so we move them through the proffessional front office, into a relaxed area, before they move into the training room. This works well for the students, but as a side benefit we have noticed that the staff we get are brilliant out of the box thinkers, who work harder and longer to achieve the best results as they love working for the nutter they call a boss:)

      The comment about the power point is interesting, but I agree everyone should be able to talk with or without props.
      out door space we have, and their is a nice view of the hills as we are at the base of them, I am thinking about putting in a garden, for people to grow veges though, thought that was a brilliant idea by Google.
      our coffee machine makes everything from Coffee to hot chocolate, but perhaps some juice and softdrinks could aid in keeping energy levels on the up. (despite their high sugar and health issues)
      have the enclaves, teleconferencing is currently by Mobile if required.
      I like the way the last point is worded as I can see the reason as well as the requirement:)

      oh did I forget to mention, I am an Aspergers, 2 of my staff are, another 2 are on the cusp and yet another one has an Aspie kid. So yes we like our isolation, but try to reach out to the community to make it a better place through our training and councelling service.
      Russell
  • Sep 26 2012: Thanks James Google is incredible, but maybe too extreme, the philosophies of why they do these strange perks is brilliant. We have the couches, coffee machine, team lunch runs and restaurant raids, but I suppose I am looking for the next wow for my team.
    We are in the process of converting an ice cream cart to a coffee cart, but getting a lot of flak over it as people don't seem to understand the best staff want to work where they can brag about their workplaces. I suppose that is the crust of the post, what is needed to retain the best young minds and keep them work motivated.
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    Sep 26 2012: Here's a look at Google's offices (this was 2 yrs ago): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB5utwRnfH4
  • Sep 28 2012: Some of the pics of our facilities can be found at http://www.facebook.com/GiveLifeCenter.

    Lars, I am not saying a desk should be done away with, but what I can tell you is that my partner works in a cubicle with 6 other people sitting face to face and side by side, it is replicated in the next cubicle and so on until there is a floor full of these little work spaces, all I can imagine is a maze with rats plodding away and always looking for that next stash of cheese or worse given up and treading the wheel till they die.

    I want my staff firing on all cylinders 12 or 16 hours per day as they cant get work out of their head as they enjoy it too much. When they go home they want to return to work as they enjoy it too much and even like to invite their friends over as they want to brag about where they work. This often means that you get more people applying for work tha you have employment for and they are prepared to start anywhere in the company so they get a foot in the door.
  • Sep 27 2012: I do not think desks are that much oldfashioned like you imagine.

    Just that we use computers and mobile devices does not make any difference, before we used mechanical typewriters or paper and pen, and thinks like that have been same "mobile" like any stupid laptop is. You might carry a lot more paper work around with laptops, but you can work only at one paper at one moment, so there is no true win in that "mobility".

    And whoever really worked on something while sitting on a couch will tell you, the first thing coming to their mind is dreams about getting a desk for their own and a good office chair.

    Same like having dinner. Of course you can have your noodles in a cup while running after the bus, but you also can eat them sitting on a nicely decorated desk. What is more appealing?
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    Sep 27 2012: Technological advancement defintely has changed the ofice ocncept a lot by this time....working from home is in practice in some profession in some industry...... face to face meeting has been replaced by TC/VC to some extent. But still nothing could replace the value of direct human interaction......so still having chairs, tables, a room etc hasn't yet lost it's value in office concept....let's see what happens in future (modern is a relative term so prefer to use FUTURE).
  • Sep 26 2012: A modern office needs a computer(desktop or laptop) with internet connection; a telephone; fax machines, printers and scanners. But the most important thing that a modern office can not do without is internet connectivity(smartphones/computers).
    A private corner is still important in a modern office; for some people privacy is important for reflection, focus, and to be able to concentrate. Couches and armchairs are still desirable. One should feel a certain level of comfort and convinience in the workplace.
    But the basic need is a workstation(a desk and internet connection).