How The Office Is Killing Your Team


Every year comes the time to plan for the year that lies ahead.

As the leader of the Customer Value Management “start-up” division, I wanted to bring a fresh and different thinking to the process. The new year had to incorporate innovative ideas and challenge conventions.

What better way to start the planning exercise with a brainstorming session? I believed the best way to do so would be to get out of the office to get the brain juices flowing. Outside operational work, out of the desk comfort zone, out of the coffee/lunch routine. I wanted my team to think differently in order to find new ways of solving old problems.

After some search, we decided to rent a meeting room in one of these office space rental buildings. We needed privacy, projector and a whiteboard. Room was easy to get and a standard hourly fee was applied. It had a big conference table, projector enabled, coffee included. All the preps were there.

After the day, I felt we had achieved much, but yet there was something missing. I felt we didn’t really achieve the full potential of the session. And I wondered why?

Coming to think about it, I realized that there was a cold sensation to the place. The idea of getting out of the office made perfect sense, but the realization of the idea, the actual space did not deliver. It was too “office-like”. And so, despite the fact we were “out”, it still felt as if we were “in”. The goal of getting out-of-the-office to get fresh ideas had been defeated because we had rented just a different office-like space.

Managing a team these days, where communication and mobility is part of our lives, has an interesting challenge when it comes to design. Office spaces were designed and built 10-20 years ago, but technology and the working environment changed much faster. I realized that my team was suffering from the generation Y syndrome. Basically, they blend work and life differently. They are mobile. They rather be in open spaces. Yes, many value the comfort of their space, but that is because WE made them feel comfortable there. Where they strive is in places with energy. With music. With hussle. They naturally like the noise and the vibe of places, people, movement. They want simplicity, ease of use. An electrical plug. Wi-Fi. No scheduled commitments. They rather eat something on their lap at lunch time, while the brain is free to come up with cool ideas, than wasting time in pre-scheduled lunches. Their brain never switches off. There is no 9-5 mentality. They are always picking up ideas, analyzing scenarios, re-inventing what is good to become even better.

So how can we harness all this inventive power of a mobile and hungry Y generation, when by default the office-space that we invite them to work in everyday acts against their peak performance?


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