An ideal working environment


I recently noted that the confined environment of an aeroplane or train seat was a surprisingly good place to get some thinking done. In this article, I want to describe a radically different — but even more effective — workplace.

The workplace I’m talking about provides an exciting and stimulating environment. When you enter you’re immediately struck by the lack of formal structure. The indoor area is open-plan, with no internal doors or dividers. Desks group into clusters and separate projects centre on each cluster. During each day a team member switches projects several times. The workplace extends outdoors too and everyone spends a quarter of each day working outside on more physical and messy activities.

Bright colours appear everywhere and at all levels; pictures fill the walls and paints sit on the tables. Letters and numbers hang from clothes lines strung across the room. There are things to manipulate, hard and soft, rough and smooth, quick and dead. The team leader uses music, speech and movement to convey instructions. Most activities have a physical element.

Some elements are more structured. Members work fixed hours, arriving at and leaving the workplace at the same time every day; and indeed every working day starts the same way with a short team meeting, which typically includes song, movement, and a discussion of the goals for that day; and each day concludes with a similar meeting, which recaps on the day’s progress and looks forward to tomorrow. Breaks, which are mandatory, occur at set times, and members also eat together. There is, though, considerable freedom within this rigid structure: a 50% rule applies – each member spends half the time working on fixed projects and the other half working on self-directed projects.

The library is well-stocked and comfortable, with soft cushions to recline on. There is a quiet area if members need to nap.

The workplace welcomes customers, who often visit, and who receive a brief written progress report each week. Industry standards are prominently displayed. Members set their own targets and the team leader reviews progress towards these targets, relaying results back to customers.