March 4, 2013


Memo to Yahoo: the office is overrated (Nikil Saval, March 3, 2013, LA Times)

Rather than obsessing over serendipitous encounters, workplaces should be more concerned with the variety of work that people do all day, only some of which calls for an office setting.

A more promising, and expansive, model of work, popular in northern Europe, is called "activity-based working." The employee chooses the best place for the work that he or she needs to do that day.

Based on research showing that workers in the typical traditional office rarely spend more than a third of their day at their desks, activity-based working encourages the genuine mobility and autonomy that modern information technology such as email and video conferencing affords, while also handily decreasing the costs of maintaining expensive office space (though the initial investment in creating an accommodating environment is much higher).

In contemporary workplaces in the Netherlands, such as those at the insurance company Interpolis and the Amsterdam offices of Microsoft, workers don't have their own desks. Instead, they can choose from a variety of spaces -- a private office, a semi-open informal meeting space or a cafe. Because most of the workers spend at least one to two days a week working from home, there's never a scramble for space. Employees can choose to collaborate or not, and many informal meetings can take place off-site.

Even the Dutch central government is taking steps to make its work more time- and place-independent, allowing some of it to be done at home. Studies of some of these workplaces suggest an increase in internal communication and ad hoc encounters. Staff have positive evaluations of their own productivity. And, in fact, it can become easier to reach people. The reason isn't hard to fathom: Workplaces that aren't so dependent on executive or managerial oversight can make for more cooperation among workers themselves.

At home you don't have to waste time pretending to be working.

Posted by at March 4, 2013 4:31 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus