Where is your place in the 21st century office?

Where is your place in the 21st century office?

When talking about the workplace, there’s never a shortage of those keen to gaze into a crystal ball and predict what the next big thing will be that might begin to change how we complete the daily grind. Whereas too often the predictions fail to materialise or live up to expectations, there’s one concept – that of activity-based working – that continues to prompt discussion, suggesting it’s something that is continuing to develop and may be here to stay.

How and where we work has of course long been a topic that elicits passionate debate, but perhaps more recently because the definition of an actual ‘workplace’ and the ‘work’ completed within it has changed so much.

Where’s your desk in the 21st century office?

As advances in technology have transformed how we connect, collaborate, and communicate across geographic and cultural boundaries, the tools employees once needed to get the job done are as different today as the very jobs needing to get done!

The requirement for each employee to have his or her own desk space, for example, is an increasingly dated concept for companies recognising that with the evolution of technology there comes a natural evolution in how we work.

Look around your office and at any one time there’s likely to be a large number of empty desks, vacant cubicles and the like. With so many employees on site, on the road, on leave, or working remotely at any one time, all those desks seem a waste of space, not to mention an unnecessary cost to companies who, in the current environment, are looking for any and all possible savings.

Workplace design for optimal performance, enhanced engagement, and increased productivity

Activity-based working, then, is an approach to first understanding how a specific group of workers go about their daily jobs (taking into account the specific industry requirements), and then designing a workplace that leverages technology and appropriate use of space to allow that work to be completed optimally.

Rather than separate desk space for each employee, an activity-based approach to a consultancy business’s office, for example, might have a range of facilities – from ‘hot desks’ to break-out areas and quiet meeting rooms – that cater for the many different tasks its workforce might complete in a given day, but take up maybe two-thirds of the office space that a normally structured office environment might.

These are adaptive work environments that recognise we all work in difference ways, on different things, at different times. They embrace office-wide wi-fi, a ‘work anywhere’ approach and, perhaps worryingly for those lamenting the rapidly-changing work world, a potential loss of control that a more traditional, desk-based environment might facilitate.

But for every micro-manager afraid of such a loss of control, there’s also the perceived concentration and productivity gains, as well as the creation of a more collaborative – and less hierarchical workplace – that an activity-based adaptive approach offers.

The future is now (or is it?)

Alright alright, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Activity-based work environments, while predicted as a game changer for how some industries organise themselves for optimal output, are still themselves evolving, and there are obviously thousands of companies with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

It’s certainly a 21st century approach to work, though, and if it does take hold on a large scale, there will follow a period of transition where the ‘creative destruction’ caused by such massive change will touch us all.

What does your crystal ball say? Are you chained to your desk on a daily basis, or does your employer see the value in exploring new ways to complete the 9-5?

More reading:

The future of work spaces: hot desks or cold comfort?
What can YOU do to maintain positivity & improve productivity at work?
How do you deal with change in the workplace?


Award-winning Australian recruitment agency, Firebrand Talent, ignites the careers of digital, marketing, creative, communications, advertising, & media talent. If you are looking for your next career move, check out the jobs we currently have on in Sydney & Melbourne.

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