Blog archive February 2022
1. You have to make room for the high value adhoc/new activities. You can’t just ADD this on top of everything else. Otherwise you’ll have no energy stores available to practice and work through the discomfort. REMOVE OTHER THINGS. MAKE ROOM.
2. Figure out ways to periodically review the (supposedly) high value things that are on autopilot. Are they still high value?
3. How much time/energy are you spending on familiar, low-value things? Why?
4. Maybe the hardest question... are you perhaps stuck in a cycle of fighting fires, becoming desensitized, and finding more fires to fight? And is that keeping you from building new habits?
For most of us, what we do is not new. Architecture is not new and the process of getting things built is not new. As crazy as it sounds, if we are to find better technological solutions to our business processes, it pays to ask how we might do this without any technology at all. It pays to understand the process, not as an input/output issue, but as a functional and useful step in achieving our goals. In architecture, the technology of drawing has become incredibly advanced with increasingly sophisticated and specialist software. But the task at hand has not changed, the challenge is a simple one of clear communication. Better drawings rarely mean more complicated ones, it pays to keep things simple; look back, then look forwards.
Rod Moreno Masey, The Technology Bandaid
In office fitout we used to talk about 'front of house' and 'back of house'. 'Front of house' was for clients and important visitors. Elegant furniture, deep carpets, good coffee and biscuits, acoustic and visual privacy. Nice toilets. 'Back of house' was for employees. Rows and rows of desks, tired carpet, iffy coffee and chipped mugs, flat lighting, plastic bins, piles of stuff everywhere. If the lift doors opened at the wrong floor on the way up to the client suite you got a shock.
Post-pandemic this disparity of experience won't do. The office has to be a desirable destination for all. It has to be collaborative, social and welcoming. It has to be adaptable and varied. It has to provide quality for everyone. We have already seen how popular business lounges are, not just for visitors but for employees who will work and meet there if they can. That is now the model for the whole office. Not back of house or front of house, just open house.
Some drawings about desks that have been brewing for a little while.
The desk, in the 20th century sense, is an industrial age compromise created by clerical paperwork and bulky fixed technology such as typewriters. It enabled the routine processing of paper-based information, from in-tray via typewriter and rubber stamp to out-tray, with associated banks of filing cabinets. The arrival of computers made little difference as long as the technology remained heavy and the information was printed. The desk enabled Taylorist management and workflow methods by fixing everyone's location in the machinery.
But now, at last, the tide of paper is retreating. And if you don't need a desk to put your paperwork on, or to carry your devices, and you're seldom there anyway, why have a desk?
The desk is still a default spaceholder when planning an office. The assumption is that people need a desk some of the time, so by giving everyone a desk we have at least ensured that they can all work. But if the desk and its associated floor area is simply a space allocation for a person, why does it have to contain a desk? It may not be the best or most needed furniture for the way a particular person works now. Which loops back to an idea I had a long time ago (though drawn in 2014). (And it's Covid-safe!)
For the last decade and more, we have been implementing desk-sharing ratios (note that this still assumes a desk for most work) so that we can add other kinds of workspace. But the emphasis is still on desk provision - get those in first, and the rest happens in whatever space is left over. Has the time come to reverse this? Put in all the agile, collaborative and focus work settings, and put some desks in the residual spaces. For occasional or specialist use only.
In the paperless portable-tech office, the key surface is not horizontal (to put paper and technology on) but vertical, to display information (on screen or whiteboard). We might invent a new 'desk', like the old one flipped up, to put into our personal space allocation. The emphasis on display and connection make it more collaborative, to suit more social work styles. If we need privacy, we go to a pod. Or go home.