Eudaimonia is a Greek word often translated to human flourishing, or prosperity. It's regarded as a state of social welfare, promoting happiness. We explore how the concept adapts to a modern working environment.
In Cal Newport's 'Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted Work', he explores the idea of creating a 'Eudaimonia Office' (based on the concept from David Dewane, a professor of architectural studies) to optimize both team productivity but also increase employee well-being standards.
Current Office Practices.
Office spaces generally vary depending on industry, and the creative industry have especially been exploring psychological concepts to enhance their workspace (whilst simultaneously screaming out their own creativity). Open plan offices are the current norm, often accompanied by the high level managers having their own private office spaces- and the aforementioned creative office spaces may find quirky features to add to their space, such as bars, beanbags, game stations or nap rooms.
Fundamentally, the expected modern office space has a large open 'working space' central to the space. This space connects to several other office features, such as the enclosed office rooms for important individuals; Other common office features are meeting rooms, receptions and guest areas, and office amenities such as a kitchen, or break areas.
Following the Eudaimonia Office model, we are posed questions as to whether current office layouts promote efficiency and welfare. With the collabrative open space centered in the traditional 'open office' floorplan, there's a suggestion that this is the most important area, with each subsequent attached room merely an additional feature. With Eudaimonia, we'll be looking to highlight the importance of 'deep work', and how the office can be structured to promote this invaluable skill,
The Eudaimonia Office Layout.
When traveling through the Eudaimonia Office, we enter a linear journey through five stages (rooms/areas) that are designed to reflect deeper levels of focus. The idea is the farther you travel, the easier it is to achieve a high level of meaningful contemplation- and reduce distractions.
Assigning retable names to each area, the proposed model is as such:
- The Gallery - Inspiration
- The Salon - Collaboration
- The Library - Investigation
- The Office - Superficial Work
- The Chamber - Deep Work.
Acting as an entry to the office, this space is an ideal location to display examples of meaningful and impressive work achieved by your company. By displaying greatness, it serves to inspire employees to further lofty heights, whilst also showcasing high standards to potential clients visiting the office.
Think of this space as your elevator pitch, and your first impression - both to employees and outsiders. How do you want to be perceived? How do you want people to feel about your company? And, how can you evoke a particular reaction?
Office sizes play a large part in how well a gallery could be executed, but by imagining the customer journey (and indeed, the employee journey), we may define our reception, entry hallway, and outer facade as the 'gallery'.
Salon's are places for comfort, chatter, and almost tinged with pampering. This office area is a space for enjoying coffee, lounging comfortably, and being able to engage casually with individuals to debate and discuss ideas and tasks.
The salon is intended to create a mood somewhere between intense curiosity and argumentation.
- Alan Ruby
Having moved from the gallery, brimming with vigor and inspiration, the salon fuels comfort, reduces stress, and allows for healthy social interactions.
Next, we would progress to 'The Library'. This area, as expected, would have access to a wide range of reading materials. Both external (books and resources from outside the organisation) and internal (documents past work, and resource) content would be available here - likely through bookcases and hot-desk computers.
This is also the ideal space for useful hardware such as scanners and photocopies. Appropriately at the center of the five stages, we can refer to this section as 'the brain', as it truly would be an information hub to support team members.
Four stages in, we finally get to our designated 'Office' space, i.e. the standard area we'd associate with working environments. Within this space, we'd produce a productive area that is still relatively comfortable - an area most workers would likely anchor their every day task management from.
Open plan work stations, traditional cubicles, and meeting rooms, all fall into the office space. The idea here is to start dialing up the focus and professionalism; chatter in the salon would differ from the focused discussion within the office.
Finally, the last stage reflects deep work. Imagining individuals passing through each room, there's room for potential distractions and noise to those already working within a particular area- but within the chamber, no one walks through, and no one (hopefully) visits unless they have an important reason.
The purpose of the chamber is to allow for total focus. Free from noise, questions, phone calls, interruptions and clutter, your chamber should be an escape for any team member that needs to put their head down and achieve something great- the ideal area to 'get in to the flow'.
With a linear journey, the emphasis is not on a particular area, yet the final area gains an extra protective layer against disruptions and distractions.
There's also the psychological benefit of moving through the various stages of thought, reflected in the focus of each room/area:
- Gallery - Inspiration and impression.
- Salon - Comfort and ideation.
- Library - Education and support.
- Office - Collaboration and general productivity.
- Chamber - Total immersive focus.
Creating such a linear journey can prove challenging due to the sheer lack of office architecture existing with such a style, although perhaps with a shift in thought, future spaces will be designed accordingly to the principles of Eudaimonia.
However, even without a linear shaped floor plan, we can apply elements of this concept to help raise office standards and individual output.
Firstly, find the best space for uninterrupted focus, and develop that as your 'chamber' - look furthest from the front door and you're likely off to a good start.
Secondly, go outside, turn around, and walk back in to your office - but take care to note your surroundings in detail: What features stand out? What is great? What is poor? What could be better? For creating the 'gallery', you're looking to make the initial area of your office as impressive and welcoming as possible whilst ensuring the standards reflect your business. If you walk into a supermarket, you'll usually be greeted with the fresh fruit and vegetable section - and this is no accident - the store wants you to associate their brands with a fresh and healthy image.
Thirdly, all offices tend to have a coffee machine somewhere - but perhaps it's hidden away at the back in a kitchen - the further consideration is as to where the coffee can be consumed. Bring your coffee machine nearer your established gallery area, and create a lounging space for employees and guest to enjoy as your salon.
Even if you can't actualize a five room plan, you can steer movement in a certain direction by well placed furniture and partitions.
Enjoy. Work deeper. Be better.
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