This article takes its look at office design changes through the lens of the “Great Recession,” with a particular eye to knowledge workers. The author conducted an extensive literature survey that reveals three primary concepts that impact the office designs of top-performing companies – autonomy, demographics and technology.

The article refers to a number of studies that show the need for both collaborative spaces and places for solitary reflection. Hot-desking and hoteling, she notes, have largely failed due to acoustic and visual privacy concerns. She cautions readers that these special places and furniture must be carefully designed and “formalized into the culture of the company” or they won’t be used.

In addressing demographics, the author believes that the rapid growth in the 55-64 year old demographic over the next 15 years [nearly ten times the percentage increase by 2025 as the 25-54 year olds] will put increasing demands on office design, particularly in the areas of furniture, acoustics, lighting, air quality, physical access and “assistive technology.”

The article splits the treatment of technology into two distinctive areas – (1) the untethering of workers from the office with its productivity suppressing noise and bad ventilation and (2) the effect of technology on workplace learning. In this latter area the article discusses learning theory, web-based learning, gaming and virtual environments.

The author believes that the real impact of technology on the workplace will be to make offices largely unnecessary. The ability to focus at home, coupled with the environmental benefits of not commuting, will relegate offices to serving as places for social networking and collaborative learning.

Source: Mary Colette Wallace, Searcher, January 2010

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