The “Invisible Office” is the “Comfy Office”

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For better or worse, the buildings in which we work tend to be among the most important structures of our lives. Here, we’ll channel creativity, perseverance, and passion into our lives’ callings. And, here, we’ll make some of our closest friends, share many of our most memorable moments, and—quite likely—whittle away long, mundane hours. In many respects, you could argue that the office is as much our home as the places we return to every night.

 

In their influential piece from 2011, New York Times authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer illustrate these points (and the value behind emphasizing workplace comfort) quite well:

 

“Working adults spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else. Work should ennoble, not kill, the human spirit. Promoting workers’ well-being isn’t just ethical; it makes economic sense…Sometimes, all that’s required is that managers address daily hassles and help with technical problems.”

 

Herein lies the significance of facility managers—the men and women responsible for the comfort of those under their watch. It’s a huge responsibility, and simultaneously one that’s often overlooked.

 

But, what is comfort? What expectations are reasonable for a workplace?

 

In our eyes, the most “comfortable” offices are the ones we don’t notice…places that function so smoothly, we’re unable to see the mechanisms holding everything in place. Just as we desire technology to be transparent—a means to an end, and nothing more—so should we desire our offices to be an organic extension of the human mind, enabling productivity while diminishing distractions.

 

Take temperature, for instance. Chances are, if you’re in a comfortably heated room, you don’t notice the temperature at all. But, should the air become chilly—bringing up goosebumps all over your arms, and forcing you to reach for a jacket—you suddenly become more aware of your surroundings, and less focused on the work in front of you. The same goes for noise, office configuration, and basic utilities. When conditions are ideal, we don’t even see the strings holding everything in place.

 

Naturally, this “invisible” office seldom exists—and, when it does, it’s only for short periods of time. We live in an imperfect world, and the unfortunate truth is that systems fail, people have conflicting preferences, and distractions always find a way in. Where facility managers can thrive, in such a world, is through preemptive maintenance and speedy resolution of the “daily hassles” Amabile and Kramer describe.

 

The General Services Administration devised a report to address the issues of poorly designed federal workplaces listing aesthetics, comfort, functionality, and inter-related factors as the most important qualities of an “innovative workplace.” What the most poignant revelation of study was, however, is that all of these were factors that required “occupant control” at some level. The human elements of control and comfort mesh at the workplace, and highlights the key behaviors to truly build an “invisible office.”

 

Well, it’s hard to say that this type of office is “invisible,” but it’s been hard to see over the last few decades. As advances in technology and worker empathy grow, so does control and comfort, both analogous of one another and more relevant each passing day.

 

The “Invisible Office” will have it’s spotlight soon enough, and bright enough for everyone to see.

 

This is a continuation of CrowdComfort’s thoughts on the importance of workplace comfort, feel free to browse the site and learn more! 

 

 

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