Office design implementations have changed a lot in recent years. Out with wall-to-wall cubicles, in with open workstation plans. Out with private offices, in with collaboration spaces.
Beyond simply being new and different, these changes have signaled a shift in the way employees interact with their workplace.
staff in line coffee at AOL's Palo Alto Offices
Professional + Social Environments
My first office job was for a life insurance sales company. It was your prototypical sales workplace with an open sales bullpen, private offices for managers, and a lunchroom. Nothing more, nothing less.
The office was definitely a professional environment, but it was most definitely not a social workplace.
Employees would mingle around the watercooler, go outside for a smoke or eat lunch at the same time, but I don't remember a huge sense of camaraderie. Employees mainly worked together and just happened to be in the same place.
But many companies these days purposely build offices that are meant to combine professionalism and social interaction.
The Rise of the Work Lounge and Third Spaces
Earlier this year, I wrote about how Work Lounges are taking over modern office environments:
"Work Lounges seem to be creeping into offices as a way to build an atmosphere of relaxed areas which are suitable for both work and relaxation. Because these spaces have their roots in places of fun like restaurants, bars, or coffee shops, they are wonderful for talking, negotiating, collaborating, or working in a relaxed space away from the traditional desk."
These spaces, often called Third Spaces, are explained as being:
"In community building, the third place (or third space) is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place."
Bring on the Coffee Shops and Cafes
Though I've already called for companies to ditch cheap office "coffee" in favor of well-roasted, local, properly brewed coffee, in many cases companies and office planners have gone above and beyond and have taken it a step further by…
Bringing the coffee shop and café into the office environment.
One of the main reasons this is an interesting design choice in an office is that it combines several benefits, some of which are beneficial to employees, others of which are beneficial to companies, and yet still others that are beneficial to both:
- Improved employee interaction and comaraderie
- Perk of working for the company
- Comfortable break areas
- Relaxed environment away from the desk
- Tasty drink readily available
- Less "away from the office" time
- Encourages movement throughout the day (need a refill?)
Does your office have a coffee shop or cafe space?