Peter Bromhead: 'A change from cartoon buffoonery'

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

I've been working in the capital recently, wearing my other hat as a designer of modern offices. Though it's a change from cartoon buffoonery, it's hardly a carefree activity. When you're spending corporate millions, you learn to stay seriously po-faced.

With 50 years experience in the business I suppose I've seen it all, having dealt with every executive dreamer imaginable.

Fortunately, most of my present crop of clients are like-minded professionals, so I'm not wasting too much energy persuading dopy CEOs that, no, they don't need a desk large enough to accommodate a helicopter landing pad, or require walnut-lined boardrooms to indicate status levels within their organisation.

Thanks to advancing technology, it's pointless spending big budgets on permanency, because today's workspace will dramatically change again tomorrow.

I can underline this by example. Of the last 30 corporate fit-outs I've completed in recent years, only a couple still exist.

Companies are simply swallowed up, or downsized with the speed of light - thanks partly to the advance of electronics.

The one lesson to be learned by budding executives is to prepare everything for short-term flexibility.

Don't be conned by designers who want to spend zillions building bespoke furniture fittings that become obsolete the moment you restructure.

And don't take any notice of those burdened with the "quarter acre mentality", who expect to "own" a private desk in tomorrow's office.

Who needs a permanent space when everything is on your laptop?

Based on recent Silicon Valley observations, I fully expect the standard desk to vanish like the typewriter.

It will be replaced by casual, community high tables, fully serviced, where workers can either stand or sit on stools, cafe style, as they beaver away on ever-smaller laptops and notepads connected to their company's mainframes.

The ability to stand while working is also seen as a counter-measure to potential health issues.

Deep vein thrombosis is now recognised by medical experts as a burgeoning threat in today's Orwellian environment, where slaves often spend all day staring at computer screens.

Being desk-bound can trigger the blood circulation problems occasionally experienced by long-distance air travellers.

So, Mr Corporate Bean-counter, if you've just spent big-time on traditional fixed-height desks and chairs, you may be taking a cold bath soon, because I can cheerfully predict that radical change is afoot in tomorrow's office.

If you want a preview of what that looks like, pop down to your nearest cafe.

- NZ Herald

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