The Changing Workplace
Does the world really need another desk?
As work needs change, commercial design must change with it.
We understand staying ahead of the game is crucial to success. What we develop is shaped by the changing nature of work. So, we’re constantly exploring the future workplace and how new ways of working will affect workplace design.
The nature of work is changing
Today we work for organisations that are very different from those even twenty years ago.
Competitive pressures and technological breakthroughs have made businesses that are more mobile, more agile, and leaner. For the competitive world we live in, innovation is the key to survival for many businesses.
The nature of work has moved from what we’ve always known, to something new every day. Every year brings another series of unexpected concepts. Another idea, another business model. Today, the creative economy is the fastest growing territory, so the knowledge worker is crucial.
Ideas are the new currency
New ideas come from creative thinking. Businesses see creativity as the behavior that catalyses the innovation process. But there are obstacles to creative thinking in business. There are many personal and organisational obstacles, and one of the biggest barriers is the workplace environment itself.
What do people need from their workspace to help unlock creative practices and processes? How is furniture design contributing to more creative environments? How can design help foster better interactions at work?
How can we enhance the way we think at work?
How can we promote the collaboration of minds?
How can we facilitate the flow of ideas?
The parallel between physical and mental
Minds at work is an idea that is about individuals, small groups and whole organisations. Our research aimed to enhance the way individuals think and perform, to create better interactions at work.
There is a parallel between physical and mental activity. One is the mirror of the other. Physical ergonomics is a highly developed field, traditionally called Human Factors. Cognitive Ergonomics studies thinking processes in the work environment, to improve individual and group performance.
If we match our furniture to our physical ergonomics, why don’t we match our furniture to our mental ergonomics? If thinking is so important to organisations, why don’t we match our furniture to the way our minds work?
What would the furniture of the mind be like?
But how does the mind work? Grey matter is no small matter: there are volumes and volumes of fascinating literature on brain research. In order to tackle designing for the mind, the design team had to find out more about human thought processes. We consulted experts, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, workplace designers, and of course end users.
We had to be confident that we understood, as much as we could, about some challenging scientific subjects.
How can the work environment help us organise our thoughts?
Environments were imagined that reflected properties of the mind, perceptions, working memory, and long-term memory. We believed the physical design could assist the organisation of memory.
We know a lot about the needs of the workplace. We need to display work in progress. We need devices which allow us to park and position thoughts, to retrieve and locate ideas. This is about visible manifestations, a stimulus to cooperation—people need visual cues.
Designing for interactions
People need to be able to work the way they want to work. The potential for improvisation has to be built into the structures. This is the way innovation works.
The mind needs to focus. But not all the time. We also need minds to meet, to intersect, and to interact. We need a mix of focused attention and open collaboration.
We work alone, we work together. We created an environment that helps you switch modes, from individual to teamwork, within the flow, without disruption, without booking a meeting room two floors away and two days away, without the need to move, change places, or shift context.
From a workspace to a mindspace.
The workspace that shapes the interactions between people also helps determine behavior by reflecting individual work styles and modes. However this is much more than self-expression in the workplace. This is about setting up trains of thought, making signals visible, making accessibility clear, starting cooperative chain reactions. Connectivity is at the heart of innovation.
Environments that work the way minds work
The key design opportunities were to design a workspace that would:
- Create focused workspaces in an open environment
- Provide a clear definition of personal spaces
- Encourage individual display of work in progress
- Use the way our minds organise and prioritise information
- Make it easy for people to see and find information
- Provide terraced surfaces for the layout of information
- Allow for individual flexibility in the way people organise their stuff
We constructed a ‘living lab’ where we could make fast prototypes and test them to refine our thinking. The living lab created a constant cycle of concept generation, rough prototyping, and evaluation, so the whole team experienced firsthand the idea from a user’s point of view. Industry experts were invited to review our work throughout the design development stage. Many prototypes were built. Some worked. Some failed. All contributed to the final design.
We are excited about the result. We hope you share in our sense of excitement. Join us in this ongoing exploration.
Environments that work the way minds work
- The Changing Workplace
- The Design Process