Workspace Photo-Dialogue

When I'm consulting to groups I get obsessive about the quality of the space in which I'm expected to work; I'm convinced that the space directly affects the quality of conversation and, in turn, the potential for breaking patterns and making organisational change.

Over the years I've been invited to work in strange spaces ranging from underground rooms with fluorescent light and pneumatic drills reverberating through the walls and in class rooms where the seats ONLY face forward. When the space isn't up to the quality of interaction that I need, I always decline. Tricky... people get so used to their dysfunctional environment that they stop seeing it. And these days, even when companies spend a fortune on the technology to link people over vast distances I still find that they seem to care little for the quality our experience when the message arrives. 

This is madness. Work takes place in relationship. With neach other and with the world. If we disregard the quality of the space in which those relationships function we are in trouble.

Anne Marie McEwan of The Smart Work Company pointed me to Euan Semple's blog, 'The Obvious?' where he says, 'Buildings are a bugger.' Euan notes that as he flits from one corporate HQ to another he finds these expensive buildings to be restrictive and depressing.

When I photographed the Global Mobility Network, featured here on P-D, we crammed into a smallish meeting room which served our purposes well.  Enough space (just), curious air-con, good light, good technology, excellent conversation and learning. That day Frank Duffy of DEGW presented on how 'Taylorist Buildings', which house people as though they were mindless machines, have had their day.

We rolled out of our meeting into the bar at One Alfred Place; all felt good, a great day, good company, inspiring conversation. The building had worked well.

But as I made my way back to street level I saw this guy. You don't need to ask him to know his day wasn't so good. The photo tells you immediately that architecture and job design have clashed badly. There is a curious aesthetic mix here; the building evokes power, the reception guy shows us the lack of humanity that this aesthetic requires. This is a space that speaks to alienation rather than relationship.

I guess that I am fortunate enough to fall into the category of 'creative knowledge worker' and, within reason, I get to choose when/where/if I work.

Many of us aren't so fortunate.

Steve Marshall8 Comments