Workplace design for an explosion in economic growth

Horn of extra sf

from the New Yorker

In the continuing redefinition of what the workplace is and how it should be designed, most of the driving influence has been from the corporate sector, and most of this has been based on “efficiency” considerations. Whether in the name of the benefits of enabling technologies or to accommodate new ways of working, late model workplace design standards have fostered the reduction of real estate costs through smaller open workstations and increased participation in mobility programs. People are being “pushed” out of the workplace if not already leaving for better environments to get things done.

Health care legislation and entrepreneurial risk

But are we about to experience a reverse wave in which workers seek and find new kinds of workspaces to foster the effectiveness of their work and the success of their enterprises? Will we see people wanting to come back to “the office” or is the notion of “spaceless growth” here to stay?

This report on some of the economic impacts of the new healthcare legislation is fascinating. Current employer-based health plans and the high cost of individual insurance have created a “job lock” or “entrepreneurship lock” keeping people in established organizations and suppressing the drive to form new businesses.

However, if health plans through the new exchanges deliver what is promised, there could be an increase of 33% in the number of new businesses created over the next several years.

Space and entrepreneurial success

In work we’ve done for entrepreneurial organizations, we’ve researched factors leading to business success and sustainability. We’ve focused on the importance of knowledge creation and the activities and settings that support it.

Where we’ve found the greatest success has been with workspaces that are less structured than corporate domains and that use furniture, artifacts and architecture that are rarely seen in corporate offices. These are places that offer significantly more choice in the types of settings where different kinds of work can be done.

These are places, in other words, that are designed to support the activities of creative and innovative people. They are places that ignite the work of individuals and teams. They are places that draw people to them because they are relevant and valuable to the types of work that grow businesses.

How interesting that a key incentive to the growth of businesses and the economy may come from redesigning how healthcare insurance is provided.

How interesting that while older organizations are pushing people out of conventional workplaces to save money, some of those people will rush to the new kinds of places and spaces that better support their purpose and that nurture the new organizations that they will stat and that will provide a new generation of economic growth.

In workplace design transformation projects we sometimes ask, “what if we started with nothing?” That is, if we could toss off all that we take for granted in workplace planning, toss off the corporate ways of working, what would we build? Perhaps we are about to see.


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