A few companies in London are promoting the use of shoulder-to-shoulder seats in their offices for the better
All of us had those amazing ideas while chatting to our colleagues during lunch time, but have you wondered why that ‘light-bulb’ moment didn’t strike while working at the office? Well, according to Sketch Studios, a London company, the reason could be the seating arrangement.
Commercial office design has become a serious business. Before, it was just ensuring everyone could get to the coffee machine and knowing where to put a coat stand. Now, it’s all about maximising productivity and promoting efficiency, which in turn benefits your company in a big way.
What’s the latest idea? Benches.
Based on the popular communal seating of Wagamama, where people sit shoulder to shoulder, Sketch Studios has decided to introduce this style to office design. It suggests employees are all soon to be sitting in rows, free from the burden of having to tend to their own chairs. According to the company, the big idea goes like this: if you can sit in a row eating your favourite food next to each other, then you can damn well type and answer the phone, too.
Sketch Studios managing director, Justin Bass, said the inspiration for long, continuous desks came from home, stating, “We looked to the kitchen table. A family comes back in the evening, they eat, talk and exchange ideas. Afterwards, someone’s doing their homework at one end and someone’s reading the paper at the other. It can be used for multiple activities.”
He suggests that unallocated desks can often end up being overlooked. He said, “Typically a hot desk ends up being the worst desk in a building — the one that no one wants. We want to reverse that and make that desk the hub of activity in the open-plan office. So when people end up there they engage with other people. Using a bench when you’ve got interesting people promotes ideas and cross-pollination rather than a sterile environment.”
For those who are worried the Wagamama seating arrangement may promote dangerously high levels of cooperation, Bass guaranteed that this is a natural development in modern office. “We used to go to meeting rooms but actually what we’re discussing is nothing confidential. Younger people are much more used to having that dialogue in open-plan offices,” he said.
Citing Google, of which innovative departments range from a padded-seating, traditional English pub-themed office to one they call ‘granny’s flat’, he assured that the idea looks to be taking off.
What other executives think of this idea?
Marketing communications head at Openworks, Nina Stenning, has these seats in her offices and is a fan. She said, “People use them both as a formal and informal meeting area. They save space as you can get more people around the table. They’re functional, space saving and allow you to do more, rather than just sit and eat your lunch. They’re just much nicer to look at.”
Ellie Johnston-Price, MoneySuperMarket.com office manager, is just as complimentary. “From a space planning point of view they’re excellent for creating a streamline effect,” she said. “If done well, they look sleek and professional and can fit more people into a difficult space.”
However, Johnston-Price added that benches aren’t set to completely replace desks. She said, “My only negative would be if we wanted to change the office layout. The Mother of All Benches, as we call it, could only fit in certain places.”
So, what’s next for the office of the future? “Technology allows you to work anywhere,” said Bass. “It’s about trying to get people to reverse their thinking about the office. The quicker we can do that, the better.”