The end of the office - Clive Thompson ⇢
Corporations are starting to wake up to the huge costs — direct and indirect — involved in offices. Not just the real estate and electri bills, but the human costs. But people still need to interact: to be co-present, even if it significantly less that 40 hours per week:
Clive Thompson via The Globe and Mail
In recent years, some large, established Fortune 500 firms — particularly management consulting and accounting firms — have begun to dematerialize, shedding real estate as they realize that their cubicles are often empty. Employees are either working from home, travelling or holding meetings outside the office. Why pay for all that expensive real estate if you don’t need it? Using that logic, the management-consulting giant Accenture has significantly reduced the square footage of its global office footprint, says Sharon Klun, the firm’s manager of retaining talent.
Some prominent architects believe the trend will remake the way we construct new office buildings. Frank Duffy, a British architect who founded DEGW and became famous for his pioneering office design in the eighties and nineties, predicts offices of the future will have fewer traditional conference rooms and private offices. Instead, they’ll have plentiful — and smaller and more casual — meeting areas, and unstructured space where employees can drop by to work for a day, on the increasingly rare occasions when they’re not working from home or in the field. More and more meetings will be conducted outside the firm — in airport lounges, bars and cafés. O’Neill, too, predicts offices will become more “residential” in appearance, filled with sofas and chair arrangements that replicate a Starbuckian feel.
“It’s the interstitial spaces between buildings that are more important now,” Duffy tells me. “It’s no accident that Starbucks has flourished in the last decade. It’s providing this interstitial space in between companies, places to meet.” The office may never go away — but in 10 years, will we recognize what it’s turned into?