Labor Day came and went — and now it’s time to get back to business! In our first iteration of our “back-to-school” story, we highlighted home office tips to revamp your remote workspace and increase productivity. This time we’re revisiting office design as a whole and exploring the shift in how these designs/spaces influence our work – both in traditional offices and remote ones – with designer and pro-organizer, Jeffrey Phillip!
How is it different appealing to millennials? Does their taste in organization differ from older generations?
Millennials and older generations approach organization from different perspectives. A millennial may start looking at an organization with an emphasis on technology and less of a concern on paper and physical stuff. The conversation may be based around how to help them organize their technological life to help it meet their real-life needs. How to make those worlds meet in an efficient and pragmatic way. Whereas older generations are typically interested in learning how to better organize their physical stuff – papers, calendars, etc – and figuring out how to make their physical world meet this new technological world. These two groups are essentially trying to figure out the same things but they are coming at it from opposite sides. Plus, in addition to that, I find that there’s a different understanding and knowledge around how millennials may care for their homes and offices vs older generations, which can play a big part in the conversation and where the organizing work begins.
How has the rise of an open office changed the game for organization techniques?
It has made organization both harder and easier. It’s made it harder because there are fewer places to store things, but it has also made it easier for the same reason. We tend to fill whatever storage space we are given so in an open office we have less space to store things, which in theory should mean there is physically less to organize. However, contrarily, it makes it harder because we still need to keep stuff on/at our desks for the projects we are working on. While many things can be saved digitally not everything can. This results in creating piles in and around our workspaces, and since there are less places to store/hide things it can become distracting to our coworkers and create a sloppy office aesthetic.
Does desk hoteling impact the organization of a work space? How can you ensure that the office doesn’t fall into disarray?
Desk hoteling results in the need for a lot less storage because we shouldn’t be storing something in a space long term. There may be a need for 1 or 2 drawers to give us a spot to place stuff for a day or so, but we are moreso working out of our bag or getting supplies from a common space.
To prevent the office from falling into disarray everyone needs to pitch in to keep the space neat. That means cleaning up after ourselves and not leaving anything behind. However, since nothing is being stored in these common/reserved spaces they shouldn’t be able to get too messy.
Do you think it’s important to have designated work areas or is the idea of a multi purpose design useful? Why?
I believe in multi-purpose design and talk about it a lot because I help people find ways to make their spaces (especially small spaces) work better for them and meet their needs. I actually have a multipurpose setup myself since I’m dealing with a limited amount of space in my NYC apartment and needed to squeeze in an office.
However, that said, I prefer designated work areas. I believe that they allow us to be more efficient and have far fewer distractions. When it comes to work spaces, I think that multipurpose rooms require a lot of maintenance so that one can feel settled to do the work they need to and not be distracted. Multipurpose design means there is a regular transition and cleanup that needs to happen from the previous use of the space to it’s next use. If that transition isn’t smooth or fully complete, it creates an unsettled work environment, which isn’t efficient or productive.
What’s your take on the trend to blur the line between indoor and outdoor design? Do you feel as though every piece has its specific place?
We spend a lot of time inside these days since we work so much and since work has become so easy to do from home. Because of that I think we are craving more accessibility to nature and the elements that help us to feel relaxed and recharged. While this has become a big trend recently, it isn’t something entirely new.
For example, Frank Lloyd Wright created seamless transitions from the interior of a space to the outdoors. It was a way of expanding the living space and respecting the outdoor environment. I think we all like the comforts of indoor living but we crave the outdoor elements. I think it’s just part of human nature. If I have to spend time inside, I want to feel like I am as close to being outside as possible, or that I can very easily transition to being outside. It’s very similar to how open concept living allowed us to connect our living spaces to the kitchen (the hub of the home) so that we could stay connected to our family and guests. Connecting the indoors to the outdoors is just another way of making a change to our homes so that they better meet our needs and help improve our quality of life.
Do you find that organization is more important in a remote work environment or in “office life”? Does the role of organization differ between the two?
Organization is important in any work environment. The type of organization you need may be different because they are different spaces with different distractions and layouts. Depending on the person and the situation one place may be easier to stay organized than the other, but it’s equally important to keep both places organized. For example, it may be easier to stay more organized at home if you have more space and if there are fewer distractions than in the office, so you have to work harder to keep yourself organized at work. Or, you could find it easier to stay organized at work since you use a multipurpose space at home for work and because there are more distractions with house chores, family obligations, etc. Again, that doesn’t mean one if more important than another, it just means you need to put more focus on keeping yourself organized in one space versus the other.
How has technology’s role changed since the workplace has become more mobile?
Technology is a star player in the workplace. It’s an integral part of helping us get our work done, especially since it is one of the main reasons that we can be more mobile with our work. Without the advance of technology we would all still be sitting in offices together.
What mobile tools are out there to help people organize themselves.
There are hundreds of apps and sites to help organize ourselves and our work, but it’s important to limit the tools we are using. Trying to use too many can actually lead to being more disorganized. Tools like Google Drive, Evernote, Apple Notes and/or DropBox are some of the more critical ones that allow us to stay organized, collaborative and productive while on the go. It’s also incredibly important to make sure our contacts sync properly and that our calendar updates seamlessly. When it comes to design work, the MyMeasures app has been an incredibly helpful tool to keep certain elements of my projects organized and easily accessible.
Thanks to Jeffrey for all this insight on office design! If you enjoyed our conversation, feel free to find Jeffrey and all his social channels below!