Towards a New Way of Working

From Office 1.0 to Office 3.0

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The original modern office first appeared with Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management method” at the end of the nineteenth century. The type of work that was considered as nonmaterial production separated some people from the factories and workshops and they started working in spaces called “offices,” where work efficiency was guaranteed by clear divisions of labor and strict supervision. In the twentieth century, there have been many forms of office spaces, such as large open-spaces, modular offices, SOHOs and Internet-based remote offices.

The forms of office space reflect the diversity of this architectural typology. There are factory-type workspaces with management and efficiency needs, mixed-use office spaces based on hierarchical management, and headquarters-type office spaces that emphasize privacy and institutionalization. There are also more casual, comfortable and creative workspaces that are now widely accepted. Every change in space type is closely related to the working mode, management style, efficiency and the psychological needs of workers.

A rest area in a modern office.
Rest area, Goertek Global R&D Headquarters, Qingdao, China, 2021, MAT Office. Photo © Wu Qingshan

In October 2014, MAT Office launched the research project “Office 3.0, the Next Work Space,” focused on rethinking possibilities for the design of office spaces as a result of the rapid development of the Internet. The evolution of communication technology has subverted the uniqueness of physical office space and consequently, remote working has become popular since people are no longer bound by fixed offices in fixed locations. The Internet-based sharing economic model has ushered in new thinking about management and entrepreneurship. Creative ideas and excellent projects no longer emerge only in fancy office buildings. Other types of spaces, such as entrepreneurial spaces, urban public spaces, cafés, and libraries, can become places where inspired thinking and doing takes place.

At the same time, people’s behavior patterns are also affecting the development of contemporary society. Today, mobile devices and social networks have penetrated into everyone’s lives and the continuous online-offline interaction has gradually blurred the boundaries between work and life.

In addition to transforming existing traditional office spaces, people can also choose to work at home, in libraries, in shopping malls, in city parks, and even in the cafés under viaducts. The meaning of office space is being rewritten: from the traditional division of space to the work space that gradually dissolves in every corner of the city; from the 8-hour work routine to the reconsideration of work as a lifestyle choice. As one of the main functions of the city, the upgrading of office space changes the appearance of the city, and the city provides a stage for the development of future office space.

Inspired by the definition of the methodologies of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 in the development of the Internet, in our “Office 3.0” research project, we summarize the development and evolution of office space into three stages, namely Office 1.0, Office 2.0 and Office 3.0.

Modern offices include wide spaces as you can see in this lobby.
View of the lobby, Goertek Global R&D Headquarters, Qingdao, China, 2021, MAT Office. Photo © Wu Qingshan

Office 1.0 refers to the way of allocating office space on a fixed site. The space distribution logic is generally based on work efficiency and management practices, and the interior of the space is characterized by a variety of distribution methods realized through divisions and furnishings. The freedom of the workplace is very limited.

Office 2.0, which appeared in the remote office era, is a free workplace and remote collaborative office based on the development of network technology. With the popularization of mobile communication devices, people can easily access the Internet, the SOHO style of working becomes popular, and more people work in public spaces such as cafés.

As the mobile Internet is becoming more popular, we are gradually entering the stage of Office 3.0. Due to the mechanism of entrepreneurship and the working mode of cross-field cooperation, the future office space will focus more on collaboration and physical encounters as elements to encourage inspiration. The coworking space is also developing rapidly at this stage. People from different teams and industries share the office together. While obtaining the convenience of office auxiliary services, they also spontaneously form a social network due to encounters and interpersonal reactions in the same space.

View of some modern offices from the exterior.
View from the exterior, Goertek Global R&D Headquarters, Qingdao, China, 2021, MAT Office. Photo © Wu Qingshan

From the perspective of the city, as the functions between work and life are blurred, the boundaries between work space and urban space vanishes too. The typology of office buildings has been evolving since “interconnection” and “sharing” have become key words in the discussion about how information transmission influences the use of space. The boundaries of office space in cities are disappearing. Home can be a workplace, and office behavior can also be spread across various spaces throughout the city.

While the office space itself is becoming more fragmented, the boundaries in all aspects of contemporary society are disappearing as well. As the sociologist Manuel Castells wrote in his book The Rise of the Network Society: “This doesn’t mean the end of the office, but a diversification of the workplace for a large part of the population … Faster and faster electronic computing devices will facilitate this trend, towards an ‘office-on-the-run’ in the most direct sense.”

Main image: Courtyard, Goertek Global R&D Headquarters, Qingdao, China, 2021, MAT Office. Photo © Wu Qingshan

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