Turtles all the way down

Everywhere you look, the workplace is under attack. Its calm presence as a binder of people, creator of opportunity, opportunity for creativity and home-from-home leaving the home as a home is being challenged from all angles.

A week rarely passes where I am not required to pitch in on behalf of the workplace, reinforcing its vital importance to an organisation, and why exceptional design from a thorough brief can bring about a beneficially transformative effect.

So who are the multitude so arrayed, who would bring about such harm?

Trivialists, who are unable to separate the word “cool” from the term “workplace”, and deny that any workplace even actually exists unless it has appeared in its expansive, pristine, just-PC’d shadow-peopled gloss in Forbes or Fast Company. Like a Miu Miu handbag or a Pekinese, the office is useful only as a fashion appendage, ergo, it isn’t useful. Sorry, your Centurion Card is not being accepted, do you have any broken mirrors?

Generationalists, who want to turn the office into a primary colour-clad rubberised playpen where flexible mums (never dads, of course) can share their emotional exhaustion over a watery latte while watching their offspring experiment safely with responsibility and initiative, and still be home in time for tea. Bath and bed, with no story.

Futurists, those for whom such a narcissistic job title can only be auto-imposed, who believe the workplace will be a self-charging virtual, dispersed and vaporous dreamstate, in which we rapturously transact gift and goodwill, while we remain at home hardwired into the nespresso. But what do they know, eh?

Horizontalists, who want to dismantle the structures on which the workplace totters, breaking down silos, deconstructing definitions, blurring boundaries, and diluting the contribution of the central place of work. Its all apparently “beyond ther workplace”. Unbeknown to them however, although the world is perched on the back of an elephant, its turtles all the way down.

Culturalists, who believe that culture trumps design when it comes to determining the form of the phsyical working environment. The strength of the hand lies principally in the casting of fear from challenging the contribution of culture. Amid the deepening of voices, lowering of chins, furrowing of brows and banding of South Bank Show vocabularie, lurks a fundamental problem: they have no idea what culture means, let alone how it determines the form of the phsyical working environment. What does it all meme?

Googlists, who think that every workplace should deploy every colour in the known spectrum, every item of furniture in every catalogue ever produced, and everything for sale on eBay that has no other practical use or possible buyer. Because when your brief is that open, nothing can possibly be wrong, and anyone can do it as long as they’re wearing fancy dress.

Fortunately, those assembled in the flodden fields are disorganised, disunited, and generally in disagreement with one other. The odd skirmish keeps the workplace sharp. When it all really kicks off though, we’ll be glad of the turtles.


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