The innovation in technology has led to a sort of renaissance in the office landscape (and culture).
In less than three decades, the authoritative, monochrome, rigid workspace that allowed minimum interaction has evolved into an aesthetically appealing, open, responsive, flexible one.
Anyone from the ‘80s and ‘90s will not recognise an office, as we know it, today. That was a time when most offices would have the same format as either a maze of cubicles or huge desks lined in rows. Work was mostly a somber affair with people crammed into cubicles. Modes of documentation were typewriters, and of communication were typed letters and landlines. Then there were fax machines and other bulky equipment that ensured one was chained to the desk. And recreation? That was catching up on the grapevine by the water cooler.
Workspaces have evolved like computer processors have over the years. Earlier (in the ‘50s), a single computer would fill up an entire room. Now, an average workspace in corporate India has more IT / Telecom processing power than the Pentagon had 30 years ago.
We owe a great deal of what we see today to the IT revolution that changed the way we work and exist in an office environment. Global IT giants like Microsoft and GE introduced the office spaces that at that time felt otherworldly. They brought in their global architects that changed the way workspaces looked, inside, and out.
The transformation of the workplace has been a direct result of how technology reduced and practically eliminated bulk from the office desk. The desktop PC replaced typewriters and fax machines. E-mail and chat messengers reduced paperwork, and calls. Soon, the bulky desktop became a laptop, and then a pad. Landline telephones were made redundant by the onset of mobile phones. The mobile phone only became smarter replacing the computer altogether. With video-call, WhatsApp, e-mail, and a suite of office apps at the press of a button, one could be accessible anywhere, everywhere, and work remotely from a café, or even at home. The shackles attached to the desk have now been completely shattered.
The challenge for the leadership now is to bring the team member back to the workspace. Only good coffee and WiFi doesn’t make the cut. The office is now designed keeping the needs of the modern workforce in mind. The office now needs to be a place where unbound occupants feel comfortable, can hang out with like-minded people, and where all their needs are met. It inspires and gets their creative juices flowing, an office they would love to keep coming back to, and even boast about. Additionally, it proves to be a great USP for recruits looking for ‘cool places to work’, on job search portals.
The contemporary office space often reflects not only the industry, but also the mood of the current workforce through bold colours and graphic elements, ample glass walls, and hip décor. It doesn’t stop there. The workspace and meeting rooms can resemble a whole different world made to recreate the outdoors, the inside of a subway metro, or a cool café, or even that of a spaceship.
Offices like Google, Swatch, Skype, Facebook, have ensured that their culture is immediately made apparent through their interiors. Google has a slide instead of a stairway. One of the biggest draws is the recreation or breakaway space. Here team members get to interact and mingle with co-workers over something other than work. Some have game consoles, to pool tables, to ones like Infosys that has an actual bowling alley on the premises. With ‘perks’ like these, why would anyone want to go home?
And what makes the interiors more fun? Furniture that is as evolved as the interiors leading to an aesthetically inviting space. Breaking away from the traditional seating arrangement, many offices have an open plan where people can sit wherever they want to, or even huddle together, in working corners.
Some offices have replaced chairs with swings. Often, the chairs and tables are not just a work of art, but modular, multi-functional, and most importantly, ergonomic incorporating an element of wellness to it. Heard of the standing desk? It has proved to be beneficial for those who use them and studies have shown that excessive sitting is the new smoking.
The Future is Here
Why carry your laptop, when your meeting table can be the Microsoft touchscreen tablet table?
Kinetic Furniture – This is the future of modular furniture. It is a technological innovation that involves robotics in the design of furniture. Kinetic furniture is responsive and reactive. They are fully automated and can adjust their positions in the most optimal manner, and strikingly gorgeous to look at.
The levitating coffee table, that looks like an oversized Rubik’s cube is a marvel in kinetic furniture where science meets luxury.