Work In The City: Future Workstyles and Environments

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Okay okay, I know that title may not sound like the most inspiring prospect at first but hear me out: it's actually pretty revolutionary and it could be something that has an effect on you in your future career.

I recently attended an event as part of the London Festival of Architecture at the Aldgate location of Gensler - a firm which began in San Francisco in 1965 and now operates offices in 46 cities in 16 countries worldwide. In 2013, the company began a three-year initiative called Reimagining Cities which is designed to prompt a series of conversations on how considered, community specific design proposals can target urban problems.

The main initiative that was presented at the event was that of utilising already available city space to act as an extension of 'the office'. This could mean hosting meetings and one-to-ones in places such as cafes, parks or simply open public space; it could also lead to something more regulated, such as short-term leasing of office space. There are a number of factors which already indirectly support this initiative, some of those being the increase in solo entrepreneurs and free agents in the work force as well as the boundaries of 'work' itself; any talk of maintaing a work-life balance is rapidly being replaced by the term 'work-life blend'. 

Although I didn't ask any questions during the presentation I did walk away from there with plenty in my mind (always the way!) as well as some theories based on the information I'd just received. The first question that came to mind was that, with an increase in external, localised meeting and independent work spaces, will the need for a permanent, physical base become redundant? This could see the introduction of 'virtual offices' which could act as an online hubs for files and data but function out of any location that its workers desire. This could then lead on to the opportunity for employees to personalise their work-life blend and identify spaces to work from which increase productivity both as an individual and as a company.

However, with work not being allocated to one specific, dedicated area, could this affect the focus and, subsequently, productivity of a workforce? 


For some, not having clear-cut perimeters defining a 'typical' workspace and with work activities spilling into the leisure sector, attention span could be impeded by the 'off-duty' nature of informal, unofficial work spaces such as cafes and restaurants. Areas associated solely with relaxation being utilised as allocated work environments could, in my opinion, have one of two outcomes.

The first being that the ability to 'switch off' in these areas could become increasingly difficult as the barriers between work and relaxation spaces blur and become confused with one another. Spaces that used to be reserved purely for leisure time will see an increase in activity typically reserved for the office. The question is, will this create an unhealthy balance or 'blend' between work and play with no boundaries between the two with work becoming less productive and relaxation becoming more difficult to achieve?

Alternatively, a general feeling of ease and reduced intensity may start to develop in work activities undertaken in these areas of leisure. With the spaces chosen for 'work in the city' being so variable, the sense of foreboding or feelings of negativity towards the office and that 'Monday feeling' could dissipate: the gloomy image of the office could be replaced with a whole host of changing, vibrant spaces to complete the same tasks. Regularity and routine can still be maintained but in a way which allows for a change of pace, scenery and an injection of interest.

With an overall increased feeling of happiness in a workforce, productivity may well increase exponentially as the work and attitude towards it lessens its intensity and becomes better integrated into the lives of its employees.

I think it will be interesting to see how this concept develops over the years as the workforce shifts and changes and I definitely like the idea of breaking free from the boundaries of conventional office space. Workplaces should be able to be easily reconfigured to keep up with workplace trends and allow working 'in the city' as part of, if not its whole, work style. I really enjoyed the event as it was an idea that had not previously crossed my mind but was definitely one of positivity and of keeping up with human and technological development. 

On another architecturally-related note, I've been chosen to be part of a student charette to take part in a competition for the World Architecture Fair in London - how exciting! It entails designing a new London square on a very short time-frame (less than 24 hours) with some friends from my course. If we win we could be looking at heading out to Singapore for the final event so that's definitely some incentive! 

Stay inspired,

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