Open-plan offices are supposed to encourage interaction and collaboration, boosting morale through transparency. In an extreme example, Facebook’s new 430,000-square-foot headquarters has no interior walls at all despite housing an incredible 2,800 employees who sit at minimalist slab desks with no drawers or cabinets to speak of, let alone dividers separating one worker from the cacophony of all the others. Even Mark Zuckerburg himself sits at a nondescript desk in this space rather than a swank corner office, contributing to an overall sense of camaraderie. But, not everyone is in love with working in such an environment, complaining about noise, distractions and the feeling of other people’s eyes on you at all times.
If you need to concentrate at Facebook’s Building 20 or similar large open-plan offices, you’re encouraged to either duck into one of the communal meeting rooms or simply put in ear buds to drown it all out. But, what if you had some handy add-ons to your personal space that made it easier to isolate yourself when you feel like you need it? After all, the introverts among us are easily drained by all that social activity, and withdrawing from the crowd can stimulate the kind of focus that gets tough tasks done.
First year MA students from Lund University’s School of Design offer a few innovative solutions in the form of ‘In Our Office,’ a collection of furniture and design items that allow for enhanced concentration, rest and stimulation. Companies can still maintain the airy, day-lit, transparent atmosphere of an open-plan office setup while also providing comfort and privacy for workers with accessories they can access at will. The ideas are surprisingly fresh, including an ‘umbrella’ that can be positioned to conceal sensitive information on your screen or block out views of the rest of the office and ‘Zip It,’ a sound insulation chair that zips up around you to dampen annoying noise.
The ‘Bunk Desk’ lets you literally rise above chatty coworkers when there’s no where else to go, which could be especially helpful when floor space is limited and private rooms aren’t available. ‘Deskretary’ is a desk with a built-in wall that functions as its own little cubicle and folds up out of the way when not needed, and ‘Coffee Corner’ is another space-saving design with small tables built onto a folding room divider. ‘Finder’ is a combination file cabinet and trolley with modular shelves so you can cram in as much as you need to and easily transport large quantities of paperwork around the office.
The ‘BRB’ nap cubby is another cool concept when you just need to take a break. “In our office we have blurred lines between working hours and fun times,” say the designers. “The ping pong breaks and coffee rituals are the small things that make us inspired to do great work. but the small sized office can be compared tons haring a room with your sibling. It is great to be able to be together, but sometimes you need a break for yourself. BRB allows us to regain energy by taking a rest. It is about feeling free to create your own norms in the office and to do the things that make you feel good.”