The changing role of the office

Welcome to the third in a three part blog series where Dr Nicola J Millard talks us through the themes emerging from her recent whitepaper ‘Workshift: The Future of Work’.

The paper investigates the ways in which employees are leading the change in the way that we work, and this blog looks at the role of the office and how employees are using third places to work away from both office and home.

The role of the traditional office is changing. There is a growing body of research emerging showing us that the way that we work now is actually inhibiting our productivity. Ask yourself “where am I most productive?” and I doubt that your answer is “the office”! And yet, many of us still choose to drag ourselves into those big grey, soulless open plan places with their Dilbert-style cubicles and harsh fluorescent lighting every day. YouTube Preview Image

Manufacturing thinking has designed the modern office space. Cost per seat has driven organisations to load more and more people into tighter and tighter spaces. This ‘one very small size fits all’ environment fails to account for inevitable decrease in productivity of the people crammed into these spaces. Noise, lack of natural light and air plus constant interruptions all tend to destroy the ability to concentrate on any task.

We are increasingly being more productive away from the office – on trains, in coffee houses and at home. One size definitely doesn’t fit all here – we sometimes need to be quiet, sometimes noisy and sometimes we just need an environment which stimulates us into action. We also often need to have a place where we, and likeminded others, ‘belong’. Maybe the traditional notion of the office as we know it needs to be completely reinvented.

There is a trend for workers to abandon their offices entirely and set up their working day from a third space that is neither the office, nor the home – a place that has been nicknamed the ‘coffice’. Rather than having a fixed location to work from many people are gravitating towards an area which is bright, friendly, has fast WiFi connectivity at nominal (or no) cost and has great coffee. People can meet and talk or simply work quietly on their own.


The office may no longer necessarily be a place where we go to do work. Perhaps it is actually a place where we go to socialise about work – have meetings, serendipitous encounters at the coffee point and see and be seen. But if we actually want to do productive individual work tasks, the office could be the last place we want to go…

To learn more about working from home and ‘third spaces’ you can read Nicola’s full whitepaper here

You can also read her first and second blog in the series.

‘Workshift: The Future of Work’ looks at the changing nature of the fixed office environment, the influx of their own devices into the work environment and how employees are using third places to work away from both office and home.

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