Imagine a building without rooms, a room without walls. Picture vast collections of people united not by national identity, but through global and international cyber-networks, living in a world without borders, and experiencing days that never end. In many ways, thanks to technology, this is the context in which so many of us around the world work today. It’s a context in which the only constant is change— at ever faster rates of speed.
Whether working in New York or New Delhi, London or Los Angeles, Dubai or Dallas, people across the globe, working in virtually every segment of business have instant access to design tools, information, imagery and events that may originate down the hall, across the street, in another country, or in different parts of the world simultaneously.
Yet, only 25 years ago, the world was a vastly different place. In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist working at CERN, a particle physics laboratory in Europe, wrote a memo to his boss, suggesting the creation of a “‘web’ of notes with links (like references) between them” as a way to share information over a computer network. Less than two years later, he introduced his first Web pages and released the code for his system to the world for free—and the World Wide Web was born. His gift allowed ordinary people to access and share concepts, ideas, documents and interact virtually and the world took an exponential leap into a new era.
Domestic and multinational corporations thrive on information and communication technologies.
Experts see these changes occurring faster and more readily. Futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, predict that the pace of the changing workplace will continue to accelerate until sometime around 2045, when they believe human and machine intelligence will merge and “the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our own creations.”
Scientists observe this shift and call it evolution.
Psychologists look at these changes and seek to understand the impact on individuals and social structures.
Economists track the developments and see a globally competitive marketplace led by innovation, demand and supply chains.
Architects and designers have joined forces with researchers and industry visionaries to craft new working environments that bolster new ways of working and interacting.
No matter how these new developments may be defined or understood, one thing is clear: Not only are the changes taking place, but they also are producing seismic shifts in how business is done around the globe. And along with this, two pillars of human nature — resilience and adaptability — are essential to thriving in this brave new world.
In such a dynamic environment, it isn’t surprising that workplaces — like people and processes are changing, too. Architects and designers have joined forces with researchers and industry visionaries to craft new working environments that bolster new ways of working and interacting.
Relying on research and analysis, many of the new workplaces are defined with “evidenced-based design” as fundamental building blocks that influence the size and configuration of spaces as well as the materials and furnishings. This will also lead to reinterpretation of outmoded spaces for an even more digitally-driven work landscape.
Architects, designers, product developers and business owners have responded to this culture shift with completely new work spaces and tools that also encourage and support collaboration for flexibility purposes as businesses adapt and change to meet new demands.
Today’s progressive offices bear little resemblance to the standard private offices and workstation cubicles of the not-so-distant past. We now work in offices that look and function more like hotels, with inviting lobby-like spaces where we gather and socialize with our colleagues, extended tables and benches where we can commune and bond as teams, and temporary work pods that we check into and out of on an as-needed basis.
Forward-looking offices today also look and feel more like homes, with spaces for meeting and gathering as well as semi-private spaces to retreat to for concentrated thought and focused tasks.
Within these new offices, walls and partitions have come down and have been replaced by loft-like, flexible “hackable” spaces that can be reconfigured with a lot of ease and little expense.
While these open, more egalitarian, less formal working environments transform the workplaces of the past they are also sure to continue to evolve again — as technology and global cultural nuances emerge, and humans adapt to the next new wave of change.
As walls and barriers come down and rates of change and volumes of information go up, we humans are also sure to long for counterpoints like structure, solace, stability and silence.
At the same time we find balance in Nature.
In places where walls disappear and territories dissolve, the ground beneath our feet can serve as the firm foundation that allows us to confidently move forward through shape-shifting times. It can provide a sense of definition as it does in Nature, where grassy knolls give way to rocky banks or other terrains inspire design concepts and beautiful thinking.
A fresh, yet familiar, nature-inspired skinny plank carpet tile product can offer the sense of firm footing we need to forge ahead through an astounding yet inspiring sea of change.
We know a skinny plank can’t change the world but it inspires the people who can. And more beautifully designed spaces connect people, interactions, processes and collaboration to meet the needs in a rapidly changing world.