A new model for workspace to empower a more mobile workforce
It is reported that by 2020, 70% of people will work away from the office as often as they work at a desk, which raises the urgent question of what will the office of the future actually be for?
CONNECTED BUT ALONE
At a time of profound change, where advances in technology vastly outpace physical change in buildings, a new era of digital nomads will reshape work and its settings. As digital connectivity becomes ubiquitous, will a dispersed workforce result in isolation and disengagement from team and company culture, impacting both on individual well-being and organisational effectiveness?
NOMAD’S LAND TOOLKIT
In the face of these changes and in the race to win talent, we have re-imagined the workspace not as a shelter for desks but instead as an anchor point for human interaction and a living asset that morphs to the needs of an organisation. Nomad’s Land is new model; a hyper adaptable toolkit which champions face-to-face experiences and fosters social dynamics as the corner stone of productivity, innovation and well-being in the workplace.
“...patterns of communication are the most important predictor of a team’s success, and the most valuable form of communicating is face-to-face”1
BEYOND THE DESK
We believe that the traditional corporate real estate characteristics of static space metrics is obsolete, that “presenteeism” is now outdated, and that workspace will become measured instead by its effectiveness as a tool for collaboration and communication.
HOW: NOMAD’S LAND IS BUILT ON:
1 AGILE TERRITORIES
We propose dynamic, reconfigurable habitats, inspired by the archetype of ancient nomadic communities and the freedom-inspired spirit of contemporary camping. A kit of parts enables a multitude of spaces to be created from one, and supports interactions through spaces for collaboration, community and concentration that can be leveraged and adapted without requiring hard construction. Well-being is enhanced by encouraging strong relationships between people and promoting a sense of purpose by feeling part of a wider whole.
Space use is intensified with environments that ebb and flow according to an organisation’s needs as they evolve, reducing costs through more effective occupation patterns, and providing resilience for future changes.
2 INHABITABLE BASECAMPS
To empower the digital nomads to have choice and control over their space and time, the concept proposes semi-temporary project-centred environments - “base-camps” which team members configure from moveable blocks; a simple gesture that it’s their space to use and own, for as long as they need – whether for weeks or months.
“One of the important psychological factors related to productivity is the ability to alter the work environment. In many cases, the perception of control is often more important than anything else”2
The act of making encourages team bonding as individuals negotiate what type of habitat they want to create depending on their workstyle and promotes a sense of ownership without needing permanent attachment to a fixed space.
Stackable tables are extracted from the base-camp blocks, whilst shelves become inhabited with a team’s collective objects. Extendable screens provide degrees of privacy as desired whilst in-built lighting gives a team greater control over their environment.
90% of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as stress, so the process of inhabitation and a more private, more domestic setting makes the nomads feel “at home” and enhances well-being.
3 CONVIVIAL CAMPFIRE
“creating collisions – chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization, improves performance”.3
A central hub, the “campfire”, brings together individuals from separate parts of the organisation to cross paths and intermingle, supporting innovation and cross-pollination of ideas. It provides a platform where people feel at liberty to generate, share and explore ideas beyond the confines of their defined role, exploding the corporate pyramid or silos.
Stepped platforms give the potential for a wide range of uses, including events, but also acts as the fixed infrastructure, integrating stairs and the permanent office staples – from printers to the coffee-making spot – so the workforce is naturally drawn together. The campfire elements provide storage where the base-camp blocks can be stacked when unused, for efficient space use.
4 TREETOP RETREATS
The kit of parts provides habitats where people can enter different states of mind and workmodes: Spaces for focused work are created at high level – for individuals or meetings – and vertically separated from the spaces of interaction. Intimate “treetop retreats” are interspersed with generous interior planting, which defines a separate zone for contemplation, concentration and confidentiality. Movement is encouraged throughout the entire workspace, for health and well-being as well as increased unplanned interactions.
5 CULTURAL COMMUNICATORS
The kit of parts is adaptable to different organisational cultures, so the right mix of individual, team and social spaces can be provided. Collaborative, creative work cultures can be enhanced with more organic choice of layouts whilst more controlled work can take the form of more formal arrangements.
With the workforce spending less time at the workplace, it becomes crucial to powerfully communicate organisational values and culture, so the kit acts as a medium for expressing corporate identity. The parts can be tailored in appearance, materiality and form to embody specific values. This enhances the workforce’s sense of connection to an organisation and also communicates a strong identity to clients.
6. PERMEABLE ECOSYSTEM
The reduction of space requirements opens up possibilities for what an existing “office” building could become, particularly in the context of historic Central London built fabric. With a significant reduction of workspace footprint, many more occupiers could be housed within the same envelope, with gaps between providing opportunity for public uses and natural light.
We re-imagine the workplace part of a wider ecosystem of overlapping activities and organisations, transforming closed urban blocks into permeable, intensified 24/7 destinations. By opening up to the city, companies can create engagement points for their brand, the mixing of the public and employees fuels unexpected creative thinking and there is more opportunity for collaboration between different organisations.
1 Pentland A (2012) The New Science of Building Great Teams Harvard Business Review, April
2 Memory and Productivity, White Paper by Haworth
3 Waber B; Magnolfi J & Lindsay G (2014) Workspaces that Move People Harvard Business Review, October