Going to work

For those of us working in “knowledge” industries, the most important attribute of any workspace is that it’s more interesting and appealing than staying at home. It should also provide reliable, easy access to better technology than if you stayed behind your own front door.

Anyone who wants their workspace to be quiet needs to realise that they are usually responsible for killing organisations stone dead. It’s like trying to find a restaurant with a group of eight other people – nothing too spicy, not too noisy, not too quirky, needs to have empty tables. Anything more expensive is rejected, too. So the group dines to the lowest standards, experiences and expectations of the group, rather than to those of its finest individuals. It pulls the whole gig down.

Designing and running a great workspace in 2011 needs bolder solutions than it did even five years ago. Akvo’s about to move into a new “space” in Amsterdam (which I haven’t seen yet) so I thought I’d write now about what I think is important.

Unfortunately most people have only worked in places that were designed around assumptions that are at least ten, and often decades, old. Groups of desks are structured around “teams”, yet the individuals in those teams are working with lots of other people elsewhere. Many people are present only 20 per cent of the time, because they’re out at meetings or on site, or travelling or on holiday or at home. Yet they command a desk – and an empty space – that is both costly and leaves a workplace feeling empty. Yet they’ll come back and if someone’s taken over their space it’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Hiring consultants to design you a space is fine, but really it needs to come from within. I think the best way to create great workspace is to find out what the best are that others you’ll share with have inhabited to date, and ask those with the best to replicate those as a mix – and see what happens.

I’m going to write about this in a bunch of chapters, and see how things go. I hope you enjoy it and do chip in. This has been written based on the opportunities that come along when you run an open source foundation, so if you’ve always worked in places full of secret talk, it may seem a bit different (hopefully refreshing).

Next I’ll talk about five kinds of space.

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