An office by any other name ...

January 01, 2001 |

The cubicle farm is out; free and funky heads-down areas are in. As if to prove that today's workplace is driven by a new design vocabulary, it has a lexicon to match, which building teams are both defining and learning.

First, space planners and facility managers must forget about cubicles and instead lay out a building full of pods. Wrap those space-age workstations with blankets or boundary screens, which are simply lighter versions of traditional office-system partitions. If visual privacy is needed, dispense with the partition altogether and specify a veiling device. The key to much workplace design is dematerialization: there's no reason to conceal work tools or excessively demarcate spaces. Collaboration and openness are in; privacy and secrecy are for old-school corporate types.

Make sure to include plenty of powered poles and tool rails to support computers and other implements of work. The drop-downs carry data and electrical cabling; the tool rail is generally a furniture accessory.

Aisleways have long replaced corridors in heads-down areas, but make sure to distinguish between teaming spaces and the higher-end client paths.

It may help to employ nonterritorial offices, however, which allow employees to work from several locations. Like teaming, however, the distributed workplace can cause turnover at each desk, or churn. Fortunately, today's office is designed according to the principles of universal planning, so only people-not their offices-must be moved.

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