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Flexible Workspace - Variety is the Spice of Life

30 October 2018

The Trend towards Flexibility

In recent times we’ve long since moved beyond the rigidly defined pre-1965 office where we each had our own space that was virtually identical to our neighbors’ spaces.  Sometimes the only way to tell offices apart in the old days was by whose family appeared in the photo on the desk…

The 1970s gave us a bit of a change as the “hippies” settled down and started opening businesses of their own.  Colorful psychedelic graphics appeared on all the walls; walls between offices and desks started to come down; individual workspaces became more like a living room with couches, tub chairs, and beanbag seating.

We finally met in the middle ground, where offices were flexible enough to suit the individuality of the occupant, but conducive to getting things done.  Drafting tables started to become “all the rage” for advertising account executives and architects, while at the same time there was a flood of odd-looking backless chairs requiring you to sit in a semi-kneeling posture.

Modern Times

More recently, that evolution has been driven by companies like Google, with innovations such as cubicle hammocks, fire poles & slides, 24-hour kitchen services, and bedrooms for staff that work late.  They’re really unnecessary.  You don’t need to play “Keeping up with the Joneses” with Google—and frankly, you’re destined to lose that fight anyway.

Google used its massive wealth to provide perks and facilities “to die for” on the way to becoming the Mecca where everyone in the computer business wanted to work.  They scooped up top talent wherever they went.  Soon, however, the flower began to fade.

The novelty wears off, and all the “open-concept” becomes more of a burden.  You can’t get privacy “to think”; your neighbor’s noise drives you crazy while you’re trying to concentrate and get work done; people just walk up to you and start talking without an invitation, destroying your line of thought…

The demand for doors and walls started to sound, and even powerful Google had to rethink its options.  People wanted functionality, ergonomics, and consideration of their needs.

Lacks in Modern Offices

Being a Mom doesn’t preclude working in an office nowadays, but 76% of companies still don’t provide a nursing area for new mothers.  Pet-friendly offices provide facilities for Fido and Kitty more often than Moms & babies.

Currently 64% of people regard office design as more important than location.  If it isn’t right in front of a bus stop or subway station, that’s okay, as long as the interior is inviting and conducive to work.

In fact, 62% of us value Natural Light more than anything else.  Inspiring art and imagery comes in neck-and-neck (at about 44% each) with folks demanding easily reconfigured and flexible office spaces.

Flexibility Drives Everything

Flexibility encompasses such things as modified work hours, better food available on the job, exercise machines, collaborative spaces, and the ability for groups to form spontaneously and dissolve when the task is done.  Rigid offices are a vestige of the past.

Innovation derives from an innovative environment say 85% of us, but another 63% say our current offices aren’t innovative.  Clever companies provide treadmills or elliptical machines so employees can work out when they need inspiration, but they are still rare.

That short term solution can be enhanced with a desk bike, where you don’t have to stop what you’re doing.  Get the blood flowing to your brain again without losing any time!  The low impact of a desk bike also means that you don’t have to “change into sweats”, or take a shower afterwards.  Desk bikes don’t make you sweat, and they are almost completely silent!

On the other hand, sedentary activities, such as sitting all day, can be helped with a convertible desk that changes from a sitting arrangement to a standing podium style desk.  It’s smooth, easy, and almost effort free to convert back and forth.  Most importantly, simply standing up provides significant health benefits all by itself—it’s something we ought to do at  least 10 minutes out of each hour.

Combine that with a bike chair, which you can peddle while working at a stand-up desk, it’s just the icing on the cake.  Some companies have actually gone on to replace their conference room table with a collection of All-in-One Desk Bikes, so that people don’t fall asleep during meetings, and they remain focused and ready to contribute to the meeting.

The Takeaway

There are a lot of ways we can improve the modern office.  If we can all just roll our desks into an otherwise “empty” conference room, complete with our laptops, and all the tools we need to work, then meetings become simple and much more productive.

We can still sit right beside our collaborators, even if that changes on a project by project basis, so we can share team insights, but manage to avoid that worker who went to the Deli and ate way too much garlic at lunch today!  Phew!

The truth is that workers in the modern day office don’t move enough.  Anything we can do to improve that situation is not only going to improve office productivity as a whole, but it will reduce sick days, make people more resistant to colds and flu, and probably be more fun.

Healthy employees are happier and more productive.  Isn’t it about time you gave some thought to being more flexible?