Revolution in the office!
02/26/2013 - 20:19

In contemporary offices most of the work nowadays is knowledge-intensive requiring either furious teamwork or deep concentration and focus, or perhaps something in between. When working on a task that requires concentration, interruptions are the worst enemy. Each email stops the flow, a question from a colleague means that you need to stop what you were doing, reorientate to answer and maybe act upon the request and then reorientate again to what you were doing. How do we get anything done in such a cluttered environment and how do we know in what mode the person we are addressing is in right now?

"I come to the office in the morning to get things done before the others arrive…", a colleague said the other day. I have noticed, that when working on a complex writing/thinking task, I prefer to work at home, where I get twice as much done in a given time, because at the office there are constant interruptions. Where have we went wrong, when spaces are optimised for teamwork and social interaction boosting transfer of knowledge, while there is still the need to close the outside world to get things done? 

"Activity Based Office" was clearly a buzzword at the Stockholm International Furniture Fair this year. I am not 100% sure what it means, but I assume that someone understands the different kinds of tasks we have to perform at the office (or wherever!) and creates optimal spaces for individual, teamwork and something in between. I find this theme extremely important for the modern knowledge-worker and our quality of life. The furniture industry has noticed this and is now offering some solutions, naturally in the form of furniture, designed to solve this challenge. The upholstered meeting booths or enclosures seem to be one solution for the open plan office, where public and private spaces seem to offer little privacy or silence. Many manufacturers presented their take on this concept. Some solutions looked inviting, were comfortable, well-thought to the last detail and their acoustic qualities were pleasant. Some of the bigger ones looked and felt like huge boxes, which seem a bit clumsy and could be classified as overkill for the challenge. Naturally, at a a furniture fair, the solution to this challenge is a piece of furniture, but I strongly suspect that something has gone wrong in the overall office design if it needs to be corrected with such sitting- or meeting-machines.

We had the privilege to visit one of the most beautiful office spaces I have seen, once in Stockholm. The Swedish architects Elding Oscarson designed office for the design consultancy No Picnic, finished in 2011. The solution to the above mentioned need for spaces dedicated to different activities was solved by a number of dedicated spaces; a custom-made acoustic solution for the open-space work-station area, a living-room-like space with a fireplace for intimate client negotiations and above all, the gorgeous 19th century building with a private court-yard in the heart of Östermalm. In such an environment each piece of furniture seems like a piece of art and all spaces were serving a function, essential for the people working in this company.

I would like to see outside from the place I'm working in, work in a calm, beautiful space, preferably with the option of talking to my colleagues at a moments notice, without disturbing them. And if this is only possible while sitting in a booth, let it be one of the less bulky ones, not feeling like I am sitting in a cardboard box.

Let's challenge the furniture industry to develop even better solutions for our everyday use!


Virva Haltsonen
Design Planner, M.Sc.(econ)/IDBM
Pentagon Design Oy


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VP, Customer Supply Management
Martela Oyj
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Interior Architect, Physiotherapist, Physical Training Instructor, 11/2016 - 06/2019, Martela

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