Like a workplace strategist, they constantly ask me: “What is the workplace of the future?”
I’m afraid of this question, because it usually hides a subtext, for example: “I hate open office”, “All this talk about cooperation is an excuse to take away my office”, and even: “I hope you feel good taking away my personal account ”(for the record, I don’t). In the era of COVID-19, the question remains, but expectations and forecasts change. Fortunately, Frank Lloyd Wright has already developed the solution.
When asked about the workplace after COVID-19, I just take out my smartphone and show the offices that Wright created for S.S. Johnson built in 1939.
It. Is an. Fine. Six feet of distance? Check it out. Need wide circulation paths to prevent these now dangerous spontaneous clashes between employees? Check it out. Natural light? Check it out. Want some biophilia? The problem is solved.
This image is Johnson Wax’s largest building space and has no interior walls. It was originally intended for “secretaries”, and the mezzanine was reserved for management.
Unfortunately, while I show this image, I can only keep the irony and half-serious smile for a long time. The reality is that the Wright building will never be built today: it is extremely inefficient (based on the number of employees compared to space) and is unlikely to survive a modern budget review (called “value design” in the industry). Budget technical cost analysis will quickly replace custom-made Wright furniture with “equally functional” corporate furniture systems or a bench to maximize efficiency – oh, yes, and collaboration.
The reality is that the COVID-19 crisis does not ask us to predict the “workplace of the future”, but rather estimates the cost in comparison with the unknown.
The term “New Norm” refers to the management of a real estate portfolio and its huge costs in comparison with new workforce structures that could undermine the very existence of an office. When colleagues or clients (or family members) ask me: “What is the workplace in the future?”, The subtext now is: “Do we need to work in the future?”