This week, Google announced that São Paulo, Brazil will host a Google Campus for Entrepreneurs in order to create a shared workplace oriented towards entrepreneurs in the technology sector who are starting their own business. Google provides training, guidance, and investor and developer contacts with the will to put the entrepreneurs’ ideas into practice. Similar spaces are also maintained by the Internet giant in London, England; Tel-Aviv, Israel; and Warsaw, Poland. The São Paulo office is due to open next year.
Although the address is not set yet, the simple announcement from Google has already aroused the curiosity of how technologists will design the workspaces of the future São Paulo unit. After all, Google is famous for offering ping pong tables, huge beanbags and hammocks, free snacks and informal settings in an effort to stimulate creativity and support the well-being of their employees and thus increase their productivity. This view changed the way technology companies began to organize their workspaces starting in the 2000's and gradually influenced the way corporate offices started to be designed by architectural firms. In the following years the design formula for large environments, enhancing integration among employees, separated only by small bays or sometimes not even that, was repeated ad nauseam, adding ping pong tables, a fun design and the use of vibrant colors to ensure some levity. Now, this recipe for office design has become exhausted.
According to Metropolis Magazine, technology companies such as Reddit and BuzzFeed have started to change their office layouts and hired WeWork, an American company founded in 2010, to design their new workplaces. WeWork has re-designed nineteen corporate buildings to embrace the new trends. The buildings chosen are designed around the principle of a forever corner so that light falls on different angles with interesting features. There are also large rooms where everyone can see each other with some cubicles that allow moments of complete privacy, either to work in peace, or to get some rest.
The same logic is followed by Steelcase, a traditional office of American corporate architecture established in 1912 that has invested in cubicles as a way to cut down on distractions and allow employees to actually think and focus on what they are doing. The idea came from the observation that whenever there is an important task to do or a difficult decision to take, people choose to work alone or gather together outside of the office.
To support this thesis, a survey conducted by consultant Lee Hecht Harrison showed that for 45% of the 848 Americans surveyed, frequent conversations are the main factor of disturbance in the workplace. While evaluating communication is important, the researchers say colleagues who talk too much and do not know when to stop are the main source of distraction from the rest. Time spent on emails appear in second place with 18% of complaints. Thus, the cubicles also emerge as a weapon against the distractions.
For this new wave of projects, Steelcase had the consultant Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book, The Power of Introverts (2012), which examines how American culture came to value extroversion and group interaction instead of solitude and reflection. In conversation with the directors of Steelcase, Susan argued that in any given office there are many different types of people and that open environments can often be oppressive for the more introverted. Moreover, moments of solitude are crucial for creativity. Contrary to the ping pong tables found at technology companies over the past ten years, architectural firms are now creating work spaces that value silence and privacy.
How are work spaces designed in your city? Do you think Google will design the São Paulo office with introverts in mind?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.