Old Designs Make A Big Comeback In The Modern Office

Why 2015 May be the Year to Bring Back Feng Shui in the Office

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When Liz Elam opened her first coworking space, Link, in Austin, TX in 2010, she rearranged the furniture every night after workers had gone home. She’s now down to once a week, and by her estimates in 2014, she has redesigned her office space over 350 times. Elam is the founder and previous president of the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces; she’s also the current executive producer of the GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) and has led her spaces with quirky humor and a clear concept.

Elam is a strong believer in the original reason for working, past all of the business model dilemmas and the money making schemes. She’s in it for one reason: to make sure that people receive all of the benefits of the coworking model. And to Elam, that means an open floor plan, and opening up the space, changing it on a regular basis to prevent predictability that can lead to a lower work output, and less creativity. In her own words, she’s “trying to help people be as productive as they can be by keeping things fresh and bringing great energy into a space so that they will never feel in a rut.”

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Elam’s theory makes sense. Remember when Feng Shui was so popular in the early 2000’s? Everyone wanted an office space, a house, a bedroom that connected with the traditional Chinese interior design theorem that grounded people with their surroundings for harmony and balance. People were choosing to orient their beds and couches in a certain way so that it would bring peace to the room — in the same vein, Elam’s redecoration of her office spaces allows for harmony of the people inside of the room.

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One of her main reasons for the constant redesign is to help workers communicate better. At times, working alone in a space can be isolating, if you’re not prepared for the environment, or are unsure of how to act. And humans are creatures of habit: perhaps on day one you sit in the chair by the window. It’s likely that the next day you go in, you’ll search for that same spot, out of familiarity, habit, and comfort. Elam’s switches are all about mixing people up, attempting to get coworkers to talk to each other and interact, and to get the full benefits of a mixed coworking space. “In a society where people are constantly interacting with devices, an infusion of a bit of human interaction can make people more productive,” Elam said. She focuses on three main things during her weekly moves: chairs, lights, and sounds.

Don’t most coworking spaces talk about how much their social interaction means? That’s the point of coworking spots that are dedicated to a certain type of worker: tech, startup, etc. There’s a common line between them, and the friendships and connections that people make are the roots of their success.