BUSINESS

The Office Of The Future Sounds Like A Terrible Place

This isn't progress.

There's a new office building in Amsterdam called the Edge. It's the "smartest building in the world," according to Bloomberg, and the "connected future of architecture."

It sounds terrible.

There are all sorts of things wrong with this dystopian workspace -- "The Edge watches you in the bathroom, too (but not in a creepy way)" -- but I want to focus on a particularly insidious one: No one has their own desk.

From Bloomberg:

A day at the Edge in Amsterdam starts with a smartphone app developed with the building’s main tenant, consulting firm Deloitte. From the minute you wake up, you’re connected. The app checks your schedule, and the building recognizes your car when you arrive and directs you to a parking spot.

Then the app finds you a desk. Because at the Edge, you don’t have one. No one does. Workspaces are based on your schedule: sitting desk, standing desk, work booth, meeting room, balcony seat, or “concentration room.” Wherever you go, the app knows your preferences for light and temperature, and it tweaks the environment accordingly.

This is a horrible idea -- and not because workers should be chained to their desks all the time. Rather, a desk is a home base. It's a permanent spot for a worker to keep things and feel comfortable and focused at the place where they spend a third (or more) of their time, five days a week.

Imagine if a hip new kind of apartment building decided no one would have permanent beds: Everyone gets assigned one based on when they come home. You'd try to sleep with different sheets, a different mattress firmness and a strange nightstand every night. It would get old quickly.  

So where do workers at the Edge keep their stuff? Well...

Since workers at the Edge don’t have assigned desks, lockers serve as home base for the day. Find a locker with a green light, flash your badge, and it’s yours. Employees are discouraged from keeping a single locker for days or weeks, because part of the het nieuwe werken [loosely "the new way of working"] philosophy is to break people away from their fixed locations and rigid ways of thinking.

"Discouraged from keeping a single locker for days or weeks."

This is just impossible, and infuriating. This isn't going to increase creativity, it's going to increase the number of people frustrated daily that they've forgotten something at home. Imagine if you could keep nothing at work. That means five days a week, you have to think extra hard about what you might need for the day. Advil? Tampons? Snacks? Suddenly there is no way to plan more than eight hours ahead. There's no flexibility to forget something and have a backup.

Do you have a form that you need to remember to fill out, but don't have time to do right now? Better keep it in your bag for several days, hope it doesn't get crushed!

This isn't progress, it's just stripping workers of the last modicum of control they had over their time at work.

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