The Office of the Future

Work space… the final frontier

By Marie Szaniszlo  |  Article Courtesy of:

Boston Office Space

Photo by Warren Patterson

In the office of the future, you may not want to get too comfortable at your desk because odds are it won’t be yours tomorrow.

For Philips, an Andover health care, lifestyle and lighting company, that future has already arrived.

Last fall, the company moved 240 of its employees into a new 32,000-square-foot building with only 200 desks, all of them unassigned.

Jay Poswolsky, Philips’ director of workplace innovation, cited two main reasons for the new layout were two-fold: Many of the company’s employees spend at least part of their work week telecommuting, and Philips wanted its older, more experienced employees to mentor its younger ones, who in turn could help them to become more tech-savvy.

Joe Flynn, a senior associate at Margulies Perruzzi, the Boston architectural firm that designed the space, said requests for similar layouts have been coming in “fast and furious.”

“It’s staggering how much real estate is wasted” with traditional, assigned workspaces, Flynn said, “and companies are trying to attract a younger demographic.”

Of 950 companies the International Facility Management Association surveyed, 60 percent had unassigned workspaces and nearly half said the number of employees using such spaces had increased in the past two years.

Kimberly D. Elsbach, a University of California at Davis management professor who has studied the effects of “non-territorial” or “free-address” offices on workers, said about three-quarters of employees adapted well to their new work environment. Young employees who were more comfortable using technology and working “out of coffee shops” tended to adapt the best, she said.

The other 25 percent of employees, though, felt they had lost the sense of distinctiveness that came from having a space of their own where they could surround themselves with mementos such as family photos, Elsbach said.

For those employees, the psychological comfort of such things made them feel they were more than just an “interchangeable part” and made it easier to get down to work, she said.

At Philips, many employees save their favorite photos on screensavers on their laptops instead of on desks, and they keep their other belongings in lockers, Poswolsky said.

The building does have “neighborhoods” of six to 24 desks clustered together to maintain a sense of community for people who work in the same department, he said.

Poswolsky added that it also has a “town square” with a large, cloud-like sculpture suspended overhead and brightly colored carpets and wall-hangings where people “can feel the fun of the place.”

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By Marie Szaniszlo  |  Article Courtesy of: