Spatial Distortion: a case for the borderless work environment

Spacial Distortion

First there were private offices, then cubicles, then the open concept. Turning the modern office space into an environment conducive to creating good advertising has been a minor preoccupation since the first creative dragged his briefcase to work.

In any case, I recently read two articles about office renovation experiments: one was about the Barbarian Group’s new 4,400-sq-ft. desk; the other was about Heldergroen’s desk that, without exception, disappears into the ceiling at 6:00 pm. The former’s purpose is to help foster collaboration, and the latter’s purpose is to help employees strike a better work/life balance. Both are undoubtedly very cool and very buzz-worthy. Whether or not they accomplish their respective goals is difficult to say. I’ve only seen The Barbarian Group’s desktopia in a video about its construction, but it feels very frighteningly Dr. Seussian; and a desk that suddenly starts rising into the ceiling at 6:00 pm, regardless of what one is doing, strikes me as inconvenient at best. Many people don’t share my opinion—they think both ideas are pretty stellar—and that brings me to my point: what one person finds helpful and liberating in an environment, another finds unhelpful and oppressive.

After many attempts by many people to find an ideal work-space configuration, I think we need to acknowledge that there is no silver bullet when it comes to crafting a perfect work space for creatives. Private offices quash the collaboration that extroverts thrive on; open-space environments create too many distractions for introverts and, while trendy, have repeatedly shown themselves to be the scourge of employee satisfaction and productivity; the cubicle space—a hybrid of both the aforementioned environments—should satisfy everyone in theory but satisfies no one in practice. (Much has been written about the emergence of campus environments [Google being the most famous example], but because there has yet to be a traditional ad company that has taken over enough of the world to warrant its own tiny city, we’ll leave the campus environment out of this advertising-space-centric discussion.)

Perhaps the best work environment is a borderless work environment. In other words, allow people to work where they want and when they want. Have a space for people who need or want the collaboration, but let the introverts work from home if that’s where they do their best work; let the night owls work the graveyard shift at the local pub if that’s when they generate ideas. We are interconnected enough that a destination space, where everyone gathers at 9 and leaves at 5, is no longer necessary.

Maybe the best-designed employee environment is the one they create for themselves.

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