Office work is changing; so should the office

The places where we work — the landscape of our offices — are changing dramatically as we make the transition from the Information Age to the Idea Age.

In the Idea Age, organizations face the challenge of creating ever-more creative innovative solutions. Business cycles are accelerating, and the focus of our work increasingly is global in nature.

Managers in the Idea Age value creativity and the generation of ideas more than they value processes. Tools and technology in today’s office focus on groups and creativity rather than individuals and information management.

And the places we work — our offices — increasingly reflect this new world of work.

The office design experts at Herman Miller Inc. say that office workers spend their days in 10 activities:

• They chat in informal and impromptu interactions.

• They visit in more purposeful conversations, either in-person or digitally.

• They co-create and generate new ideas as members of groups.

• They divide-and-conquer, taking pieces of a larger task and working in parallel on individual aspects of it.

• They huddle in quick meetings.

• They conduct show-and-tell sessions, planned meetings with colleagues, clients or the larger organization.

• They warm up and cool down in the minutes before and after a scheduled engagement.

• They create, solve problems and develop deliverables.

• They process the information they receive from others, and they respond.

• They contemplate their work and their lives.

Office designs throughout northern Nevada today reflect these realities.

Don Goeman, the executive vice president of research, development and design for Herman Miller, explains it this way: The office today is becoming a place that you want to be rather than a place you have to be.

The changes may as subtle as design of table legs so that people can work more easily around them. Herman Miller, for instance, sees the need for different types of desks to support individual workers or community spaces.

Office layouts and furnishings need to reflect the changing ways that offices are used today. (After all, an office really isn’t needed any more. Most people could work digitally from home.)

Today’s savvy companies are paying close attention to the way that their staff actually works. Some companies, for instance, create a “clubhouse” — a working space that brings a team together for a specific, long-term project. Others have created what they call “a cove” — a compact space where people can gather for quick meetings. And they remember to include provisions for people who join the meeting remotely.

None of us works in an office today the way that we worked 10 years ago — or even five years ago. Efficient, creative organizations are reaching out to design and furnishing specialists to learn how they can create spaces that meet the needs of today’s office.

Tom Hegge is founder of Office Pavilion, an office furnishings business in Reno. Contact him at 775-827-1331 or


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