Where Is My Office? Reimagining the Workplace for the 21st Century (Book Review)

Chris Kane. 2020. Bloomsbury Business. 978-1- 4729-7868-4.  262 pages. US$35.00 (hardback).

Author Chris Kane addresses issues such as agile work and hot-desking as he discusses new workplace practices that can help with employee productivity and even lower costs. His perspective comes, in part, from his work as the director of Six Ideas, an organization focused on workplace innovation for groups such as Amazon. He also writes often for LEADER magazine and worked at The Walt Disney Company as the Vice President of International Corporate Real Estate and at the BBC as Head of Corporate Real Estate. One section of Where Is My Office? is called “The BBC Story: From Analogue to Digital” to reflect, in part, Kane’s work history. (The graphic comes from an interview with Kane at the  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxXET2eDEzY site.)

One idea in Where Is My Office? is that instead of a focus on physical space for getting work done, the focus should be on people and what they do. Another idea concerns a post-pandemic world. This is a world where remote work and flexible work hours may become a new norm. Kane asks why workplaces have not evolved as work has.

The Smart Value Formula (p. 140) is a concept appearing in Where Is My Office? Kane’s work with the BBC helped him develop this formula of combining spaces for work, shopping, and living. The formula also came from the “Everything connects to everything else” idea of Leonardo da Vinci (p. 142). The formula is also meant to contribute to an organization’s success as Kane argues it has for the BBC with its creation of effective content.

Maybe you have worked in a cubicle or pod or at home – so you have some idea of ways to organize work spaces. Maybe you have worked in a way that you can still meet responsibilities as taking care of children, elderly family members, and those with special needs. Maybe you loved the place where you worked as it provided you with access to useful technology, people who helped you do great work, green space, fountains, and a great place to eat. Or, maybe you worked in a place that reminded you of a Soviet-style nightmare (a reference that appears in Where Is My Office?). What Kane has in mind in organizing workspaces might be far beyond what we might imagine workspaces based on our experiences. But he does factor in many elements when he writes about how to approach designing effective workspaces. Time will tell just how much workspaces will change in the future and just how our workspaces will help us be effective, productive, and even inspired.

If you are wondering about what Kane thinks about hot-desking (where multiple workers use the same work space instead of having a personal desk – as used in a city where real estate prices are high), he mentions it is “loved or loathed in equal measure” (p. 104).

As for Kane’s chapter “Delivering Agile Workplaces Across the Nation,” the focus here is on the changes Kane helped to make for the BBC as it moved from what some called wasteland to what is now a center of innovation.  He thinks beyond just creating workspaces that are safe and wants to create a place where people and organizations thrive as at the BBC workspace today. He mentions the synthesis here of “restaurants, shops, bars , cafes, gyms, cultural centers and green spaces’ (p. 238) while encouraging research and innovation.

We will have to see if the office is dead after the pandemic, and if we go into a new way of working and using workspace. Kane addresses this issue in part. He started writing Where Is My Office? before the pandemic hit, but finished writing after the pandemic started so he does, as well as possible at this point, address this issue of post-pandemic workspaces and more flexible working arrangements in the future.

Reviewed  by Jeanette Evans

A review of this book is scheduled to appear in Technical Communication.