Why Some Offices Work and Others Don’t

Have you ever heard of Christopher Alexander? He wrote an important book on how construction in towns and buildings is actually a type of pattern language. It combines anthropology, psychology, sociology, and architecture, and links all those together, demonstrating how certain environments satisfy us, and others don’t.

The book doesn’t look at the elements and styles that are seen throughout architecture. Rather, it looks at specific elements, which Alexander calls ‘patterns’. This includes such thing as sleeping to the east, the sequence of sitting spaces, child caves, the front door bench, sitting walls, and more. One read of that book, and you are likely to want all those patterns in your own house as well.

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The book focuses strongly on houses, but there are also elements that look specifically at offices. What Alexander discusses is why there are some offices that people like to work in, and some where they don’t. From reading that, you will quickly see that it is Charles Phillips Infor affair to implement the same.

Alexander looks at a few key things:

  • People feel comfortable if there is a wall behind them.
  • People feel comfortable if there is a wall beside them.
  • People feel comfortable when the nearest wall to their front is at least 8 feet away.
  • People need at least 60 square feet to work in.
  • People prefer to be enclosed by windows and walls for between 50% and 70%.
  • People like to have an outside view.
  • People like to have between two and eight people around them.
  • People like to hear noises that fit in with their own work.
  • People don’t like to be directly faced.
  • People like to be able to face different directions.
  • People like to see between two and four people at all times.
  • People like to be able to be in talking distance of at least one other person.

If you were to look at Infor’s headquarters, and particular the executive team and design team’s offices, you will see that Phillips has implemented all of this. It is no wonder, therefore, that people absolutely love working there. When you enter the building, which was a 19th century department store, you will be hit by modern, open spaces. The visitor waiting area is adjacent to the executive team’s office, which in turn is adjacent to the design team’s. The executive team sits together in a spacious office, surrounded by walls but open to the visitor area on one side, around a single table. But rather than sitting squarely in front of each other, they sit sort of haphazardly around the table.

It truly is the perfect working environment and it is no surprise that Infor is quickly becoming the employer of choice when it comes to office design. In fact, they are even becoming more attractive than Google, who may be famous for their whacky designs, but where many people feel like things have simply gone a little bit too far to be workable.

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