The Death of the Corner Office and the Workplace of the Future

Our offices are a reflection of our personalities.

Perhaps you have a calendar with adorable animals or a collage of photographs documenting your excursions with friends. As an inherently nesting culture, we all try to make our workspace our own.

That desire to bring an element of who we are to the workplace is great, but it’s not enough. Rather than dressing up these spaces, they instead need to be rethought and redesigned to reflect not only who we are, but how we work.

In the period immediately following World War II, the workplace was very singular-minded. Everyone had their own space isolated from others where they worked. Even inter-office communication came through memos delivered by secretaries. These spaces were a reflection of “who” you were a.k.a. your status in the office hierarchy, with the corner office being the ultimate goal.

However, that isn’t the case now nor will it be in the future. Over the years, we’ve changed how we work. In fact, “how” we work is the driver in our society.

Look around you…we’ve entered the sharing economy where the idea of pooling resources and collaboration permeates our society from top to bottom. Companies like Uber and Airbnb market this very well. This development has even crept into video games. I can recall a time I spent as a kid at the pizza shop playing Asteroid and Ms. Pac Man; it was me against the machine with a singular goal of achieving the high score. Now, my kids play a game called Minecraft where worlds are designed by users who share their resources with one another. The objective? Well, there really isn’t one. There isn’t even a score.

If businesses operate this way, and we operate this way in our personal lives, why wouldn’t we expect the same from the buildings around us? More specifically, commercial office buildings are designed to attract tenants, and tenants want to attract the top talent. Given our stylistic shift as a culture, the workplace needs to evolve accordingly.

The future of the workplace is less focused on the physical space but rather how we work within it. Everyone’s method of working is different but buildings in their present designs don’t always allow for that. And, with that in mind, it stands to reason that there should not be a solitary model to follow.

Instead, the workplace should be focused on “zones” that provide diverse spaces that can truly reflect how attentively you work. In the times of “how” we work, attention is the most important thing. As architects, we need to provide the space that captures yours.

At the end of the day, the best work will not come from the best room, but rather from how you work in the room you have.

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