Technology companies and consulting and financial-service firms form a vibrant tenant sector that has led a reconfiguration of office layouts. Where once office layouts featured canyons of cubicles surrounded by closed offices for managers, tech companies with flat hierarchies have shrunken private space and opened floor plans to promote teamwork and communication.
APPLE COMPUTER INC. had a problem: Its computer designers wouldn’t come to work. Unable to concentrate in the typical modern office — small cubicles in large, wide-open rooms — many simply stayed home to do technical work.
Instead of open cubicles, the building is defined by clusters of private offices for teams of 10 to 12 workers. Apple’s planners tried to provide for individual team identities by creating numerous common areas planned and furnished by the teams themselves. In typical Apple-speak, the areas are called U.D.A.’s, or “user definable areas.” They can function as places for meeting, eating — or even, in the round-the-clock world of Silicon Valley, sleeping.
Michael Brill and BOST pops up again in this one - no surprise.
”It’s interesting, but the largest offices I had were earlier in my career,” he said. ”I think corporate America is becoming more egalitarian, on the one hand, and more cost-efficient on the other. Big offices with windows and doors is not a good use of company resources and it’s contrary to teamwork.”
TO help in the transition, Du Pont flew employees to the Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters of Steelcase, which is outfitting Du Pont’s new workplace. At Steelcase, the workers learned a new language. They found out they were in the ”migration” process (moving from a private office to an ”individual screened workstation,” i.e. a desk). They learned about ”collaboration zones” (meeting rooms), ”docking stations” (a workbench) and ”free addresses” (space not assigned to a particular worker).
“I wanted people to know we’re in a warehouse, and we’re paying warehouse prices,” said Duke Mitchell, the company’s general manager for New Jersey, who, like his staff, no longer has a private office — though his small metal desk is at least in the corner and permanent. “No walls, no boundaries, no compartments, no hierarchies, no epaulets,” he said. “You’re here because of your competence and there’s no frills.”
“If you rethought the office from the ground up, and said that the group, the team, is the primary contributor, you would think of the office very differently,” said Mike Brill, president of the Buffalo Organization for Social and Technological Innovation, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on office work and office design, and which advised I.B.M. several years ago in reorganizing the company. “What we’re starting to see is places that don’t look like conventional offices.”