Have you opened up your mind space to read this article and have you chosen a physical space conducive to absorbing and learning? The secret is to become conscious that space matters and that the choice of space can have a profound impact on experience and outcome. This article by Future Work Forum Partners, Sabine Hoffmeister, a psychologist/space explorer and Andrew Chadwick, space designer/architect, sets out to explore the relationship between space and time, how the pandemic has forced us to reassess the traditional role of the office and how and where we work is critical to performance and human wellbeing.
Recently, we have experienced a much-welcomed movement to greater equality, which has been accelerated by the impact of a virus that has affected/infected our very being. Humanisation of work, long ignored, is being adopted and leaders with a conscience are working for a better world. Businesses are changing from profit to purpose and values; from planning and predicting to experimenting and adapting, and from rules and control to freedom and trust.
But what will be the structure and infrastructure in the future? And what are the set of values that support a modern space time reflection?
Offices always have been for SPACE-TIME but some were built for eternity.
Office buildings and even homes were made for eternity. Nowadays we have movable, tiny houses for the time we live and stay at a certain place and this has also happened to our office spaces.
Walt Disney was a visionary and a creative mind that invented the idea of having different spaces for different activities to set the imagination free. He created different rooms with different interiors – the Dreamer- Realist- Critic room – with the idea that different spaces lead to different thoughts and different spaces are needed to create ideas and to even solve problems.
Space as an accelerator, a challenger, a supporter, a partner or a barrier to cope with the conditions of life. “Beam me up Scotty” could be a solid solution to escape into an outer space to flee from some challenging aspects of life or the ordinary. Give it a try. Meditation, imagination, channelling, praying are all concepts for our mind to open up to other spaces.
Is space the answer to our problems? We all need the space to reflect, rethink, reorganize and recreate on a regular basis to escape from day to day complexity? We need space for the new and need space to create. Space is the void and in uncertainty we enter a space of not knowing which the creative force is.
Does the outer space have to match the inner space? In terms of well-being, in simple terms yes.
A messy space has an impact on our energy but can as well support thinking – just imagine all the books written and the essays and the poems – in ugly dark spaces, with only a candle for light or under bad circumstances and restrictions. The most challenging times have delivered the most interesting creative work or art.
The office space – a space for the time you need it.
Space nowadays is even more measured in time – Time is the basis and the “limiting factor” of this living concept. Do we need office space at all and what do we need it for? Why do we go to an office space, what is the office building providing for us? How does it serve us or our needs?
Chats, talks, discussions, complimentary coffee, escaping from home, variety in our lives, even romance in some cases? Guessing it is a mixture of all of that.
We need it for personal interaction, meetings, social connecting and feeling close to each other, being in touch and able to activate all our senses to identify with and feel that we are part of something we want to belong to.
That should be provided by the company – the rest is on us. Wherever you feel good you can work, you can work on an airplane, in a train, in a café, on the beach. Choose your happy place where you have the space to be productive and efficient. Research says the more people are involved in decision making and in conducting their own lives, the happier and more productive they are.
So the question for the future is are we joining a company in a building or like-minded communities in different spaces?
The purpose of space
It is not only about the outside, it is about what the “outside” will provide for your employees on the inside. The reason behind, why people should join, is there has to be a purpose – especially for the office space in a building. And we all have our own reasons for joining.
We need the space and we need our time and we need to set barriers in terms of using our time in a world where we can work from everywhere and anytime. Setting barriers is necessary. Who has difficulties to define when work starts and work ends? If you are in a flow and passionate about what you do, you don’t notice the passage of time.
Some of us experience freedom on one hand but pressure on the other. Because you could basically work day and night. Who would agree that they often didn’t use their time wisely and should have spent more quality time with their family or partners? Being physically close but socially so far.
Because now it is easy to “go to work” again, just close a door and you are set up. But business life is only one component in life. If you are in a partnership you need to take responsibility for your own health and for a healthy partnership.
Finding time and space
Crisis takes away space – it occupies our minds, our thoughts. And this is besides the discussion of space in terms of room and size, the only space we normally have. Our capacity of mind and the protection of our own space is needed.
A virus or illness always forces you to slow down and only after, then you have the possibility to reflect – how often do we come up with some new thoughts, dreams, decisions after crisis – often forced on us after crisis. Real change happens through crisis – would we be having this discussion about office space without the impact of the virus? You need the time-space for this…
You never do zen or meditation in a rush, you have to be aware and be conscious about what counts and what is important for you and you have to slow down before you can speed up and come back to a “normal pace”. Don’t block your space with busyness.
Make up more time for reflection – use your time wisely – slow down by asking the real important questions. Einstein said you cannot solve a problem on the same level that it occurs. You have to shift and move to another space – what does that mean for you and your team? We all need space – but for what? We need the time and space to restore, reflect, regain and rethink our concepts and we need to involve the people in our discussions and decisions.
Space to work at home
The home office and remote work can be an enrichment because you are free to choose how you work in terms of time and place. If you like to do it in your pyjamas, in your bed, on the couch, in the garden – your choice and therefore your responsibility. Freedom and variety are of high value and as we all know variety is the spice of life. After having been in lockdown what we all missed was the variety of space – and human contact.
When working from home took off, we invited people to our homes via virtual space on zoom or skype. It made us more human, showing our homes, the kitchen, the balcony, the children and our cats or dogs. It was funny in the beginning, seeing children crashing conferences or people not being dressed properly. At least, real human contact.
What about the space you need? It is your responsibility to find your space that inspires you and helps you to focus instead of exhausted and burnt out. It is your definition of space and time that will create your work-life environment and will have impact on both.
Outside of the individual’s space, the most important issue is – what do you want to provide for your employees in the office building. What kind of space should it be to fulfil what kind of purpose? What values does your building support? Will it help support your employees flourish and be fully engaged.
These were some thoughts about the psychology and architecture of space. About the need and reason for the office space and how that space will be reflected in terms of identity and values of the companies that create the future. Hopefully we have inspired you to find your SPACE TIME to develop a bright future.