Creating a Total Experience of Work

HM_LOGOHere is this month’s piece on the changing world of work from furniture maker Herman Miller, a company for which Peter Drucker long consulted and that continues to exemplify his principles of innovation and effectiveness.

Peter Drucker once said, “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” At Herman Miller, we’ve envisioned a new kind of workplace that empowers people to do their best.

We call this concept Living Office, and it’s founded on a total experience of work that is more natural, more desirable and, ultimately, more rewarding.

Living Office helps people customize their methods, tools and places of work to express and enable shared character and purpose. It is based on what is fundamental to all humans and evolves continuously in response to change. Living Office’s holistic offering of ideas, tools, furnishings and services puts people in sync with the new landscape of work.

Cognitive psychology and neuroscience show that the human brain is constantly processing a bandwidth of inputs and information far beyond our conscious perception. Living Office is rooted in these natural modes of interaction and behavior.

Cues from the environment and each other powerfully drive how we feel and what we do. Purposeful designs can accommodate and harness this “human operating system” by applying relevant knowledge from science and psychology to create spaces that feel intuitive and inevitable. In a Living Office, people can immediately grasp what they can do, where they can go, what things are for and why they are the way they are. Productivity and pleasure come naturally. It just feels right.

Currently, we are working with Oculus VR, a small, highly collaborative technology start-up, to envision the possibilties of a Living Office—tailored to that company’s unique culture—at its new headquarters. We are helping Oculus consider a customized mix of Settings that will enable the specific work of individuals and their groups.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller
Image: Herman Miller

For example, software and hardware engineers might work in Hives, which give each team member a “home” and a place to get his or her individual work done in proximity to others. Clubhouses would provide working “neighborhoods” for those who need to work independently, but collaborate frequently. Executive offices will be interspersed rather than isolated, making the “commute” a short distance to peers and teams.

We believe that workplaces like the one we are helping Oculus create should offer more than what can be accomplished through a screen or device; they should be places where talented individuals can affiliate in an atmosphere of shared passion, purpose, trust and growth. In a Living Office, people are inspired to contribute their best work.

Increasingly, it is clear that the old ways of business no longer function. The necessary update to our management methods, tools and places is to apply the fundamentals of human life to enterprise. At the highest level, this entails realignment around passion and purpose—where profit serves as a catalyst for prosperity.

—Greg Parsons, Vice President, New Landscape of Work

and Sam Grawe, Editorial Director