Many of the most successful, high-performance workplaces look and feel domestic, and this is not a coincidence.
Most of us don’t associate our workspace with self-expression, even though the concept of expressing our identity through our built environment is not new. Just think about all the thoughts that go into choosing or creating a family home which is just right for the people who live there and represents who they are. The world is full of places we can go to to purchase fixtures, chattels and other goods for our home. When we walk into a furniture store, we can chose from a vast range of products available. Just think about all the different types of kitchens you can buy! Even though the only practical purpose of a kitchen is to prepare food, after all – isn’t it?
On the other hand, if we walk into an average office furniture store, the quality and the range of options can be depressing! Why is there such a gap between office and home furniture? Whether we are at work or at home, our aim is to be at our best, whether our goal is to cook dinner, connect with family members, immerse ourself in our hobbies, relax… or connect with our clients and team members, learn new skills, and communicate with clarity.
What is represented by mainstream office furniture design is simply an expression of the values that our society associates with work. Most of us are brought up with the notion that work is something we have to do in order to make a living, so what really matters is only what we do, as opposed to who we are and how we feel in our workplace.
When we design or chose our home, some of the most important questions we ponder before making a decision are: ‘Does this home reflect and support who I am and who I want to be?’ ‘Is it a place where I can be happy, inspired, proud and at peace?’ On the other hand, when decisions are made about a workplace the most common questions asked: ‘What do we have to do?’ And, ‘Can we do that here?’
Such thinking implies that connecting with the environment that we work in is irrelevant, and making it ‘feel like home’ is an unnecessary expense and effort, or even inappropriate. As a result, many of us are even ashamed to admit that we’d like to feel more ‘at home’ at work.
But what does feeling ‘at home’ really mean? Doing what you want, whenever you want? For me it means being in a pleasant environment that reflects who I am, a place where I am at ease, connected to the space and the people around me, in touch with my purpose, and in flow. Feeling ‘at home’ means being in a place where I can focus all my energy and resources on what is really important, instead of struggling to find my ways around obstacles, distractions and insecurities.
A workplace that fits these criteria, which I’m sure you are also seeking, becomes a high performance workplace. And it all starts with the question: ‘Who are we?’