by Tiffany Chen
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United States workers spent an average of 1,749 hours in the office in 2010, or nearly 30% of their waking hours.
Where does the MKThink team spend 30% of our time a year?
[1500 Sansome Street in 1965 – Wx4]
MKThink is located on the top floor of the old State Belt roundhouse, just off the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Our view of the pier is uninhibited by office partitions; spaces are delineated by mobile whiteboards and shelving units rather than cubicles. The open floor plan encourages the interaction of MKThink’s three studios – Innovation, Strategy, and Architecture – by opening up the flow of conversation and ideas through visual and audio connections.
Theories on how to reconfigure and optimize the modern office abound, but they all center on maintaining the balance between people, environment, and business. Here are a few ideas for ways to approach these three components of the workplace.
Ray Oldenburg writes about the existence of the third place in his book The Great Good Place. He distinguishes it from first places (home) and second places (work); it is a space where the community gathers naturally and interacts casually – think coffee houses, main streets, and public parks. In an office setting, providing a space separate from the central working hub where people can pause and meet could create third places that allows for breaks in the constant flow of productivity and encourages the sharing of ideas in an informal environment.
In a recent article titled “The Rise of the New Groupthink”, Susan Cain argues that solitude, not collaboration, is the genesis of creative work. Constant brainstorming sessions interrupt and inhibit the crucial process of personally working through a problem and coming up with a creative solution. Cain suggests a more balanced approach towards the office environment that allows for small group meetings but does not impose on the individual’s workspace.
An office should provide a flexible space to experiment with different set-ups and components, where individuals can easily flow from group meetings, to individual work, to small interactions. Open central office plans eliminate the need to define physical or mental edges – peripheral, rather than tunnel, vision is developed and allows for a vibrant experience of the whole space.
A business’s office is a chance to tell its story through a physical space. Imbuing an office with a unique identity gives it a sense of place and makes people feel they belong there. To develop company culture, the office could provide ways for employees to Own their personal workspaces and have different ways of showcasing their work.
To figure out which approach best suits a specific environment, MKThink performs a quantitative evaluation of the physical space that works in tandem with a qualitative assessment of how users inhabit that environment. Moving forward, guiding cultural and design principles determine the development of opportunity areas, ultimately resulting in a space that best serves the needs of its users and enhances their everyday experiences.