The Elemental Workplace

Faced today with another excruciating article complete with even more table-gnawing video of the stock-photo workplace of the future, it had me thinking about the baseline that most would recognise as reality.

If you needed to create a decent workplace with an electrified fence between you and the budget, what would be the “must haves” – the basic components that comprise the “elemental” workplace? With an assumption (perhaps in itself dangerous) of the workplace meeting all legal compliance standards, here is the shortest list I could muster.

Daylight: as much of it as possible, from as many angles as possible. There is no artificial source of this gift that comes close to that which pours plentiful from the sky.It regulates our circadian rhythms, it is our clock.

Temperature you can control. It certainly doesn’t have to be air conditioned (in fact bad AC is far worse than none at all), but you do need to be able to turn it up and down, and at the very least open a window when you need to.

A choice of spaces. You don’t need the full catalogue of over-designed adolescent dens with wanky names, but you do need three basic types – somewhere quiet and comfortable to focus, somewhere informal to meet and write stuff up on a wall, and somewhere a bit more formal to meet, with a door (because not everything is good for everyone to overhear).

Space. Enough space to swing a cat? Now if I were to swing a large-ish cat (which I wouldn’t, of course) that would create a space of six square metres – larger than the statutory minimum. We shouldn’t have anyone closer than that without an invitation.

Wifi/network that works. Nothing brings on randomly directed guttural Anglo Saxon like a signal as reliable and as like to stand up as England’s middle order.

Somewhere to put your stuff, with a lock on it. Your papers (you will have some), your purse/wallet, your gym bag, maybe your shoes. You all have at least one pair of shoes at the office, don’t you? And the more you are committed to wellbeing the more stuff you have.

Access to drinks and food, creating at least the potential for reasonable quality. You could still make coffee that tastes like bisto and turn your potato into a white dwarf – but at least there is the possibility of you doing so.

Sanitary sanity. Toilets that are clean, warm, have hot water and soap, and allow you to dry your hands on something unique to you.

The opportunity to have an influence over the space. Often mis-cued as “personalisation” this could mean as a group, it could mean just you – it could mean just for the day, or for longer. But just so that you have some way of adding something so you create a bond with your space, however small.

Colour. If you check the cover of Dark Side of the Moon, there is a whole spectrum out there. It changes our mood, lightens our spirit. Not everything has to look as blandly bland as Apple store – they seem to like it, so leave them to it. Colour usually costs the same as lack of it too.

All of these are possible, with a little thought and a little cash. Does your workplace have them? If not you’re probably below the poverty line. And you shouldn’t be.

If we could do enough for every workplace to be elemental, imagine what we could achieve after that?

Everyone deserves a great workplace. End. Of.


9 thoughts on “The Elemental Workplace

  1. This reminded me of a thought I have. In many places, the lavatoriums are often a good clue to the culture. I went to one rather swanky place where I had to work hard to hold on to my adequacy; “they” all seemed so polished and confident, and yet, something was lacking. It was cold. Toilets were equally swanky. Desperate for a nervous wee – first cubicle, no paper, second cubicle no paper. And through to the whole lot of them. Starting now to hold on tightly and then – I saw a great mountain of rolls. Each person must have disposed of the last sheet and not a thought to replace. *looks to camera* Nice.

    Last week, I visited a rather different place. My “they” this time were manual workers, the toilet door looked a little grubby so I steeled myself. Inside, every unction and flavour of nice soaps you could think of were available to me in this little unswanky haven. Spit spot – cleaned, by themselves with each others comfort the heart. And that was how I was treated too. A friendly, professional, open welcome.

  2. Yes, I agree Neil. It’s another fine example of “Collaberinovingagement”. However, I think you’ve got it wrong. These articles are not really about the workplace at all; they’re about building the online presence and personal brand of the author – that’s why there are so many of them (“experts”?) churning this sort of nonsense out ad nauseum. He who shouts loudest….?

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