There have been many trends in office design that have emphasised the importance of location – not location within a town or city business district, but the location of different departments.
In the age of Mad Men, the idea of a very rigidly-defined division between different roles, based upon seniority and hierarchy, led to such concepts as the “typing pool” and office politics wars between managers vying for the “best” offices. More recent decades have seen “democratisation” in office design concepts, with open-plan offices rising to the fore, but there has still been a clear division between departments, with the likes of account managers and design teams operating in their own sections, or their own separate offices.
From separation to integration
Over the past few years, however, there have been a growing number of offices that have seen the advantages of mixing things up a little. Within an open-plan office environment, the desk layout is king, since it is the arrangement of the desks – and their semi-permanent integrated features such as phones, computers and other equipment – that most strongly create a working dynamic. Whereas in the past it was thought that separating departments by desk layout gave matters a desirable degree of professional separation, now several distinct benefits are cited.
Avenues of communication
The first and most immediate benefit is the faster and more organic communication that ensues from having such groups as the “creatives” and their account managers in closer proximity. When questions and queries arise, there’s no need to shoot off emails that may be ignored, leave phone messages that may not be picked up or trudge over to other offices to try and find the right individual. Everyone is close enough for any points to be raised immediately, and matters can be swiftly resolved with a simple conversation – while nobody has to break off from their work.
Cross-fertilisation of ideas
Leading on from the benefit of faster communications is the potential for greater exchange of ideas. Sitting isolated in one’s own department can help concentration, but it can often mean that good ideas originating outside that department never get heard. With an integrated desk system, everyone gets a chance to chime in, and this extra input can have greatly beneficial effect on business efficiency.
Finally, integrated departments have the potential to resolve problems far more quickly. When billing errors or miscommunications with clients take place, there’s no need for a hiatus while those responsible are found to explain themselves and sort it out – problems can be resolved instantaneously. Taken together, it is clear why many enterprises are ensuring integrated departments are also an integral part of their office design requirements, and why office design professionals are increasingly recommending them.