Friday, 24 June 2011

What has work got to do with it?

Workplace strategists, and enlightened architects, often explore the organisation and its needs in order to design the space required to support the business; this is often referred to as “designing from the inside out”. Such organisational analysis includes understanding factors such as: the vision for the business, headcount projections, departmental adjacencies, and the culture. However, quite often fundamentals such as the nature of work, core work activities, preferred work styles and how to improve work performance are overlooked. This got me thinking “what is work” - surely unless we understand this basic question we cannot design workplaces that support work and enhance business performance?

As philosopher Arthur Little[1] once said “false notions of the nature and purpose of work lead logically to unnatural working conditions and these to disaffection and discontent amongst workers”. If you believe that “a happy workforce is a productive workforce” or that the primary function of an office is to support the business that takes place within it, akin to “offices are machines for working in”, then understanding “what is work?” must be the starting point of the design process for a new working environment.