My desk. My chair. My own office! What just a few years ago was considered a privilege and status symbol, is now practically irrelevant in the planning of modern work environments. The dreaded open-plan offices with their endless expanses of cell-like cubicles have also been confined to the history books. In fact, modern offices celebrate 'open spaces' instead of partitioning and boundaries, and in doing so foster communication. Still, openness needs clear structures to cultivate an effective atmosphere at work. And a new buzzword is all the rage in the concepts and plans: the 'Central Zone'. The German Wikipedia entry under "Bürokonzept" – Office Concept – already uses it as an obvious category beneath the header "Kombibüro" for shared office space. But what does it mean, and how does it work?
It's perfectly simple, actually: Experience with open-plan offices has shown that assigning areas for concentrated work out on the fringes while enabling communication in the centre is the most effective way of using the space. So the central zone is a flexible, open area, available to – and used by – everyone. The increasing mobility of equipment for work, namely laptops, tablets, smartphones and the like, means that whenever it is needed or beneficial to the workflow, this central zone is spontaneously available as a single or team workspace. The 'open space' context is taken so far that not even the workplaces on the fringes have a clear 'owner', and they are occupied to reflect current needs.
So is this the way forward: position a few 'real' desks out on the edges and then assemble free tables and chairs in the central zone? Probably not. Even here it is important to plan carefully and from a holistic perspective. Parameters such as room structure, its depth, its various functions, styles of work, preferences and requirements must all be put together in a conclusive concept. The Assmann Office Planner is a useful tool to get started. The central zone has become a crucial aspect in office planning, sometimes even central, as the name suggests: it is the focal point around which everything else revolves.
"Modern office concepts are gradually removing the barriers between the various areas – or even do without clear structures altogether", explains Dirk Assmann, Managing Director at Assmann Büromöbel. "Attractively furnished communication zones give employees an informal setting to discuss business and to socialise."
Planned ideally, it will certainly create a less stressful working environment – and might even become a new, communal privilege and status symbol: Our desks. Our chairs. Our Central Zone!