Engagement in the workplace | Part three

If you provide wide ranges of spaces to meet in or work in, you’ll get a different result.

Employee engagement is on the mind of today’s organizations. This is part three in a three-part series on engagement in the workplace. Read part one and part two on the VOA blog.

For years, people have been developing the model for the home. They have personal spaces where they rest, sleep, maybe a work room. They have common spaces where they cook food, eat food, use electronic devices, a playroom. This idea of the home came about over thousands of years centered around what would make a person happy if they were there all day. But now, they are not there all day, they’re here in the office.

The office model suggests that you adapt to it, you should dress appropriately, you should talk how they want you to talk, you should carry an attaché case and act like a business person. This model prevailed in office design for decades.

Then a strange thing happened. The world got turned on its side because the youth became empowered with the computer. The tech industries drug in this geeky idea, a Starbucks idea, to the workplace. Essentially, Starbucks is a casual place like your home where you can get some food, get some coffee. You can meet with a group or work alone. It has a more rounded, homelike experience.

Suddenly, it’s a better place to work. Almost overnight all the workplaces evolved into this new model. They had a soft side which was the social space and a hard side which was the meeting rooms, the business side.


People began to see that they were getting a greater return on the social side. They saw that if you continue to force people into this myopic vision of what a meeting is, you’ll keep getting these myopic business answers. If you provide wide ranges of spaces to meet in or work in, you’ll get a different result. We can come here and use these idea rooms in ways that we can’t use the conference room.

The truth is that work and play do mix. Business and family do mix. That’s the real idea: human beings eventually just want to be who they are. Pretense, conformity, adaption to a model that’s way out of date, that doesn’t work.


The second part of the story is that technology has evolved. It’s mobile. The world is in a nomad state. It’s very constricted to think that your worlds would never adapt to that. In the mobile state, you can travel to these various settings that allow you do things in a new way.

In the end, the future of the office place is really going to be understanding the difference between the collaborative idea and the personal idea. At least 50% of the collaborative ideas are going to happen in a place where you can talk to people. The other 50% are going to happen in video conferencing. There’s still going to be an advantage to be working close to people where you can talk to them. At other times, you may need to work in privacy or work at home.

In the future, the workplace is going to be this experiential and kinetic thing that responds to what’s going on in the world today. Workplace should be changing constantly. It’s about how the space can evolve and change.

For more on engagement, download the new VOA Design Quarterly.

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