Guest blog: The people they are a changin'

6/27/18 11:58 AM

The following is my own unscientific reflection upon the state of the working world and work environments. Occasionally, it's good to stop and reflect on the past and look toward the future. The years seem to be racing by at an ever-increasing pace, but, as a result, we gain a broader perspective.

Do work environments and people evolve at a different pace, and how does this effect the mindset?

Everything is a changin' – or is it?

Is it just me or is everyone everywhere whining about how work is changing, offices are changing, technology is changing and how we must stay alert and not fall behind? It is enough to make your head spin, leaving you worried you actually will fall.

I accepted my first office job more than 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve been feeding my incurable curiosity by keeping an eye on changes in technology, spaces and behaviors.

During this time, computers have become slimmer and smaller, they’ve migrated from under the table to the tabletop, and now we encounter them everywhere – indoors and out. Data can be found in clouds, and printouts are frowned upon. Phones are now glued to our palms, and occasionally we might even use them to call somebody.

Previously, we used devices as designed and instructed, but now we expect them to understand the human mind and intuitions. We read instructions only when all else fails. If we need help, first we turn to Google and YouTube - then friends. The answer to everything should be available immediately. Even downtimes and response times are now calculated in seconds.

In offices, walls are torn down and re-built, and desks moved back and forth. Now desks can even be raised and lowered, yet they are the number one elements in the office. Office chairs have to have a hundred different adjustment options, just in case someone actually knows how to work them. The best work seats are fought over during the first hours of the morning.

In addition to meeting rooms, office buildings have a brand-new species of space: privacy pods. Phone booths and mini conference rooms keep secrets and bring peace of mind to those traumatized by the open floor plan. The placement of sofa groups and the height of their backrests either encourage you to network or invite you to hide yourself away. Open-plan offices have transformed into activity based working environments, and the co-working scene is in full swing. Soon, every village will have special spaces where office rats can accidentally, on purpose, bump into each other. The most adventurous companies have freed their people to decide when and where to work – some have even opened their doors to nomads.

In companies still fighting change, knowledge workers are stuck between a rock and a time card. But the train of change chugs along, and more and more people are jumping off if they don't like the ride. As the economy is improving, more and more options are available.

A work environment that caters to the needs of the work community activates the mind through encounters, experiences and stimuli.

Pursuing experiences into better (mental) spaces

We plan our vacations thoroughly, and expect to experience something unique on our travels. Could it be possible to make our everyday life more meaningful, and find small oases among all the drudgery to cheer us up? If change is good in our leisure time, why not also at work?

Ultimately, people haven’t changed very much through the centuries. Sure, our shoulders maybe slightly more hunched from constantly fiddling with the phone, our back hurting from excessive sitting, and abdominal obesity may be threatening office workers who settle for too sweet of a life. Mentally, people are struggling to concentrate and are impatient, but we all still have endless potential – we just need to harness it somehow.

A knowledge worker’s capacity is located between the ears and it matures in serene landscapes. The mind does not perform on command, nor does it shut off with the push of a button. To activate your mind, you need appropriate exposure to other people and their thoughts. Various encounters, experiences and stimuli keep thoughts fresh and in motion – and the output ultimately manifests as a good return.

Offices do not need to transform into theme parks or yoga studios, but variety in the types of spaces available can be refreshing. If we forget about shifting walls and tables for a moment and focus instead on the wonders of the human mind and its yearning for experiences, we can revitalize offices to the next level. Empathy, sympathy, joy and excitement gobble up inefficiency for breakfast.

Our guest blogger Satu Hurme-Tikkanen is an expert on workplace design and space planning and the Team Lead of Space Planning in ISS Palvelut Oy. Please find more blog posts by Satu Hurme-Tikkanen here.  For more interesting articles from ISS visit their Service Futures' page.

We have invited guest bloggers, experts in their fields, to share their knowledge, thoughts and ideas with our readers. We hope these blogs will engage a larger audience to discuss various topics related to workplaces. Please click here for all our guest blogs (in English). If you want to hear more about how we at Rapal contribute to the development of work environments around the world, take a look here.