2012: Our Intelligent Return to the Physical World – Forbes

From cubicle to newsroom to hot desks. The complete article talks about customer service trends and spaces, but the snippet below pertains to the workplace environment specifically.

Every company now is a retail company

Another interesting trend is the rise of new workplace designs that are meant to accommodate an increasingly mobile, matrixed, virtual workforce.   In early December, I sat in a new cafe on University Avenue in Palo Alto with a leading thinker in workplace design.  We were both marveling at the innovation in the seating design at the new cafe.  I asked if she was seeing the same kind of design in the workplace.   Yes, she said.  Not only the same kind of design, but the same design.   At one time, the dominant workplace design in Silicon Valley was the cubicle farm.  Sometime in the mid-2000′s — perhaps inspired by the Web 2.0 ethos — we saw the rise of the “open newsroom” as the favored design.  Now we are seeing something else:  longish tables alongside the walls and perimeters of workspaces where itinerant workers can drop in at anytime with their own equipment.  This twist on design recognizes a shift in behavior and expectations:  people crave the opportunity to drop in and work side-by-side their peers, but the experience has to be less chaotic than a newsroom.  Yes, the experience has to be more like a contemporary cafe, with better bandwidth and less noise (people will bring their own music).  There was a time, not long ago (again, the mid-2000′s) when we used to say, “every company is now a media company,” a reminder to the corporate world that they have an obligation to rethink their content and outreach strategy in the age of social media.  Now that we have entered the postdigital age — where the offline experience is as important as the online experience — every company now is a retail company, where the customer is the empowered employee who can come and go.