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Health, Sports & Psychology

Office space

Updated Tuesday, 9th August 2005

What will the office of the future look like? Caryn Franklin gives her opinion.

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Midnight oil? Lights burning into the night at Canary Wharf Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

"It’s hard to say whether the whole idea of an office is completely done with because actually it is quite important to be able to focus on what you’re doing and an office can help you do that. Certainly, as someone who uses an office, who relies on a space where there’s research and also machinery that I know how to use and don’t have to learn how to use because I keep moving around, that’s very important. Because my time is very limited, when I sit down at my desk I want to be able to use my time as efficiently as possible.

Personal space is incredibly important to me. That might be partly because I am a Capricorn, I am a control freak and I am very territorial. So I like to have everything around me that I need. The idea that it might not be there from day to day or different things would be there, would possibly slightly throw me out of kilter.

My desk is actually very functional but I’m left-handed so I have everything set in the way that I need to use it. It’s quite a cluttered desk but it’s all ... my computer, my typing area, my phone, my fax is all on my desk and what drives me nuts is when the kids have been playing on the Internet and have moved the mouse and the little mouse mat and it’s gone onto the right-hand side and they’ve made way for that by moving the phone and the fax has been jiggled about. For me, just to be able to sit down and get on with it is crucial. All of the sentimental paraphernalia like the "I love you" notes from my daughter are pinned up in front of me.

An office space where you can interact with other people is certainly desirable, it’s something that I would love because sometimes you can get a bit bogged down with just being on your own and outside stimulation is always helpful. If you’ve got a bit of an immovable problem, just to be able to turn to someone and say "I can’t believe this, this isn’t happening". I spend a lot of my time these days swearing at technology because something’s crashed or something’s not working and to have a colleague to say "do you know what to do when this happens" would be really helpful instead of having to phone up a helpline because working on your own is quite isolating but on the other hand I am quite a sociable person so I know I would be very enjoyably distracted and having worked in offices where there are lots of groups of people - I’ve worked in magazines in my early days where it’s very busy and lots going on and there’s always been bikers coming in and lots of different departments arguing about various points and there’s deadline mania hanging over your head. I quite often felt I was not being as efficient as I could be because I just couldn’t concentrate.

I liked St Luke’s ad agency immediately because I did like the vibe. It was very relaxing and very fun. I spent some time in the canteen where people were working quite happily and alongside there were other people playing some kind of pinball but I could see it was a distraction. I spoke to someone in the canteen who said "well, I’m an analyst and actually this is harder because it’s not about having creative ideas, it’s about real focus and concentration. So any kind of office can be distracting so I always seek out a quieter room". So I came away with the feeling that there actually has to be catering for lots of different requirements. That if you are an ideas person you need a stimulating environment but if you are someone who needs to concentrate on numbers or statistics then that’s not going to work.

I like the idea that what they have at St Luke’s could be the future for all of our offices because it’s just a visually stimulating place to be. It lifts the spirit, it makes you react in a different way and certainly it creates a more holistic feel about being in the office. Certainly for years we’ve been taking our work home to our house and our boundaries are blurred because we are compartmentalising our lives so it makes sense that the office experience where we have to spend a long part of our day also has blurred boundaries and you can bring in some of your home life, some of your leisure pursuits, some of your feeling about not just being on the daily grind".

Do you agree with Caryn?

Viewer Responses

All this talk about offices is fine, but "what about the workers" ?? - the people who actually do something, make things, in other words the factory environment?

I enjoyed the article on Office Space and found it very thought-provoking. I am presently working in a school and was interested in the similarities/differences between the working environment of St. Lukes and the various schools I’ve worked in. One item that interested me was each employee having a phone. On a large, spread site like the school I work in this would be invaluable in saving time in getting messages to both pupils and students. I wonder if anyone would have the courage to sponsor a school in that way?

I am surprised that the office should be considered as more than one of the places to carry out your work. The total environment, both the occupational and personal, is where both work and living, which both directly influence each other, and leisure is not excluded, influence and even direct your working portion of living. The office is a traditional separation, as was the study in Victorian times, purely for convenience for certain periods of separation and reflection.
Harry Sharp





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