Dear Office Worker, The Future Is Free-Address
06.20.2017
Cindy Coleman in Collaboration, Consulting, Consulting, Free-Address, Workplace, Workplace Design

CBRE Los Angeles Headquarters, Image © Gensler/Ryan Gobuty

Dear Office Workers,

It’s about your stuff. I’m talking about the picture of your dog, your coffee cup with the clever saying, the row of shoes you may want to wear one day, or the collection of beer cozies you’ve collected over the years. It’s about your primordial need to keep that stuff on display. I get it. You are marking your territory. But here’s the problem. Your fear of losing your stuff is standing in the way of workplace progress.

Workplaces are shifting from endless rows of cubes to a free-address work environment that allows you to work anywhere and everywhere. You are no longer tethered to an office or a cubicle. Why the shift? Most companies benefit from spontaneous collaboration—when you share information with colleagues on the fly and integrate as a team. The high-walled cubicle—your home-away-from-home—hinders this integration.

In tomorrow’s free-address environment, you have a choice of where to work. Some spaces are open and informal while other spaces are enclosed and more formal. Not to worry, there are plenty of workstations to grab when you need or want one. But, there’s more than just workstations. There are places to hide away to get that report written. There are places to make that awkward call to the doctor or the babysitter. Places to quickly convene the team, whiteboard an idea, grab a coffee, and ways to huddle around a screen or have a quick chat with a colleague who you haven’t seen for a few days.

In free-address, your work lives on a server—even more likely, it’s in the cloud. You can plug into any monitor installed across the work environment to access, display, and collaborate around your work. Paper? The need to carry around reams of paper or those books and catalogues you reference daily (or, even more likely, just sometimes) are now stored on a shelf in a shared location that you and your colleagues access on a whim.

In free-address, integration of the workforce is seamless. You and your colleagues share, co-author, mentor, learn, socialize, focus, collaborate and even have those private one-on-one conversations. And, this is important: In free-address, you see leaders and are seen by leaders. That’s because everyone is visibly active, moving from place to place throughout the day.

But, here’s the bad news. You need to say goodbye to your stuff. That’s because in this free-address and active world of work, you share these abundant spaces. You replace that one dreary cube that you own (so to speak) with an entire neighborhood, the full floor(s), and all the delightful and desirable destinations to make work … work.

I have confidence you’ll be ok. Install that picture of your dog on your screen saver. Put the shoes in a box and move it to the coat closet. Store your coffee cup in the pantry. Wash it before you leave each evening in the café sink. It, like all those cool spaces I described, will be clean and ready for you in the morning.

With love,

The Future

Cindy Coleman is the consulting practice area leader in Gensler’s North Central Region. Based in Chicago, she co-directs the consulting and brand design studios. Her collective experience as a designer, writer and researcher enables her to synthesize and disseminate complex information from research, stakeholder needs and business goals into concise reporting. Cindy focuses on human-centered performance and behavioral design to establish thoughtful approaches to workplace strategy, change management and experience design. Contact her at cindy_coleman@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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