So, what's the office for, then?

Aug 16 2005 by John Blackwell Print This Article

The office remains is as it is today because that's how we imagined it yesterday. The office is a creation of humanity - it's a simple invention. Consequently, we can change it - it's not set in stone.

Changes are often forced by circumstances; - the need to expand or consolidate operations - a strategic shift to new products, activities, or regions - a merger or acquisition.

In other cases, workplace changes are driven less by objective physical requirements than by a Chief Executive's desire to shake up the status quo, promote new ways of working, or make a statement about the organisation and what it values.

However, any change in the workplace, whether it be a move to a new building or reconfiguration of a single department, can have enormous impact on the life of an organisation and its people. For most of us who work in offices, few things are as tangible and emotionally charged as the physical setting in which we operate.

The office as we know it today has evolved in response to particular expectations, activities, technologies, economic conditions, employee demographics, and social values. We may attribute decisions about a company's workplace to a tidy world of functionality, but in reality, life is far more complicated.

Organisations continue to inhabit a nineteenth-century mind-set about work and the workplace. Despite shattering advances in technology and our attitude about family, work, and society, these older and often unstated values lurk just beneath the surface of organisational life.

Is it really so obvious that co-locating everyone in a single headquarters improves communication and collaboration across business units? Or that an open plan environment is unsuitable for jobs requiring a high level of concentration?

In today's knowledge-based, connected age, these antiquated values are like sunken wrecks that gouges holes in the hulls of unsuspecting passing ships, sinking innovation and retarding progress.

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About The Author

John Blackwell
John Blackwell

John Blackwell is a sought after global thought-leader on effective business operation. His is author of over 30 management books and a visiting fellow at three leading universities.