The office is an efficiency trap

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“It surprised me,” he told us. “This made our team aware of the fundamental flaws in the office planning.” His understanding is simple: office design has long been centered around the placement of desks and offices, and the spaces between these areas are regarded as corridors and aisle. However, as Wilkinson recalled, the “overemphasis on the desk” has damaged work and life, and plunged us into this rigid form.

So he started to liberate it, shifting his design focus to the work that has already happened Leave From the desk. In practice, this means designing bleachers and corners in corridors that used to be poorly lit, and separating desk groups to encourage more activity between teams. The idea is that a vibrant office environment can increase spontaneous encounters and thus stimulate creativity. The design also allows private areas—many with comfortable sofas and plush footstools to replicate the feel of a family room—for in-depth work, away from noisy desks.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are particularly fascinated by this new office brand. Wilkinson recalled that in the early meetings, the design philosophy of the two was deeply influenced by their work at Stanford University, where engineers often gathered in small groups and often flocked to remote enclaves on campus for coding spree and studying group. They hope to merge the traditional office with the university environment to create a workspace that can both inspire collaboration and self-direction. Wilkinson therefore developed a design whose unified goal—just like a college campus—is to be self-sufficient. This means flexible working spaces designed to accommodate changing teams and new projects, but it also means abundant green spaces, mini-libraries, social centers and “technical talk areas”, which Wilkinson later described as ” The area along the public route… will continue to hold seminars and knowledge sharing activities.”

In order to achieve this continuous knowledge sharing, Googleplex is equipped with a series of amazing convenience facilities. The campus is full of volleyball courts, personal servants, organic gardens, tennis courts and football fields, including a private park dedicated to Google. Inside the Googleplex, employees can use multiple fitness centers and massage rooms, as well as multiple cafes, cafeterias and self-service kitchens. Unlike traditional company canteens, in Google’s restaurants, food is usually subsidized modestly, and everything is free. In 2011, when the company had approximately 32,000 employees, the food service budget was estimated to be approximately US$72 million per year. Since then, the number of Google employees has more than quadrupled.

In Wilkinson’s narrative, Googleplex is designed to allow “all your basic work and life needs” to be met in a closed space. As he saw at the time, providing employees with a creative social environment—plus important benefits such as meals and health services—is a means of fostering true community and continuous creativity. More importantly, for the company, this is a humane and considerate way to treat employees who work long hours and build products designed to change the world.

Looking back today, Wilkinson was not sure about this vision. In the past two decades, his brilliant and innovative design has made waves in the architecture world, because large technology companies and small startups are copying elements of his team’s vibrant workplace for their spaces. Wilkinson is increasingly aware of the insidious nature of these benefits. He told us at the end of 2020: “I think it’s dangerous to make the work environment more like a house and a family.” “It’s very smart and tempting. with dangerous. This is to cater to employees, saying that we will give you everything you like, as if this is your home, and the danger is that it blurs the distinction between home and office. “

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