Offices Without Walls
- By Andrei Sidorov
- Sep. 29 2016 00:00
Alfa Bank's Alfa Lab division works in an agile office. Agile offices are uncluttered by interior walls and workplaces can be arranged in a variety of configurations.
A major trend in the layout of office space is the agile interior. This term also refers to the principles of organization and operation of the corporations that use these offices.
Giants and trendsetters of our time, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, work in agile offices. In Russia, this kind of working space can be seen at Alfa Lab, a division of Alfa Bank, Avito and Google's Russian office. Agile elements have been incorporated in the Yandex offices and the Moscow office of the Leo Burnett advertising agency.
Agile offices are uncluttered by partitions. Workplaces can be arranged in different ways, and desks can be arranged to form working groups. The main rule is to organize the workspace in which employees form groups as effectively as possible. These groups are easily changed as employees from one department communicate with colleagues within other specialties. The important characteristics are comfort and scalability, and everyone gets about 7.5 sq.m. of office space.
The agile concept originated in IT. It represents a flexible software development methodology based on teamwork. IT companies needed a suitable office layout. Then other companies began to adopt the philosophy and organization of office space. Even banks did. Standard Bank, ING and Citi work this way. An agile office is currently being built in Moscow for Russian Sberbank — a spacious location on several floors, each designed with agile principles in mind.
In the new Sberbank office, the number of rooms is minimized. Conditions are created for the unification of large groups from different departments. One of the main agile principles that unites and sets the tone for productive joint efforts is the lack of boundaries. Such offices are permeable, with employees moving freely. The perimeter of one of the floors of the Sberbank office will have a "scooter ring" around the entire floor area of about 7000 sq. m. and it will have real scooters. However, since banking is a confidential business, some restrictions on access to executive work areas have to exist.
Working places in agile design are set up for a team of 7-10 people, and a linear desk arrangement is not suitable for such an office. The office has to be organized into a wide variety of spaces for team work in large and small groups, with lounge areas, media rooms, mobile meeting rooms, conference halls and other spaces. In addition, agile design allows for permanent work stations as well, as in classic offices, which are assigned to some employees, as well as the common work stations for use by freelance and partially remote workers.
In agile design, considerable attention is given to high-quality soundproofing. Regular brainstorming should not interfere with those working individually. In these offices, sound-absorbing materials are widely used: acoustic panels are placed on the walls and ceilings, and there are special partitions and furniture, such as acoustic sofas that serve as meeting places.
The agile office is not only high-tech, but also inspiring. Interiors have décor. Superheroes dash across the walls of the Alfa Lab office. The Yandex office is a green oasis, and the favorite place of Leo Burnett employees is a red sofa that looks like a giant spring. Everything necessary for comfort and relaxation is present in an agile office too, of course — coffee, a kitchen and sometimes games and sports.
Until about 20 years ago, the leaders of many Russian corporations were horrified by the open space system, but now offices with walls are almost gone. The popularity of agile offices will only increase. They are the future.
The construction cost of the agile office is less than that of the traditional open space, because the number of partitions is kept to an absolute minimum. However, you cannot create an agile space in every business center. It is only possible where the building design allows it.