Monday, April 17, 2006

Online into Real Life

A while ago I heard Shel Holtz talk about the way he used to know the doings in a former employer. He was a smoker and regularly clustered outside with other smokers where random people from all over the company came together to talk.

When he stopped smoking he lost one of his key lines of communication.

Today that same casual environment can, in part, be replaced by a Wiki, but should it? There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting. Sure, you can talk with someone on IM, phone, email and even video conferece. You can read their blog, post comments and discuss things on a wiki, but those activities are all done between face-to-face meetings.

As I move through offices of clients, friends and even publications, I'm struck by how the environments never seem to take meeting places into account. People meet for different reasons, so private offices, conference rooms, lounges and even informal standing areas are all necessary.

But too often offices go one way or the other. I've seen massive rooms of flat desks with people quietly typing, every conversation is heard by everyone. I've seen row after row of private offices, each with a closed door. I've seen row after row of cube, making it impossible to decipher one from the other.

Companies spend plenty of money fretting about their online presence and determining what it says about the company, but how much do they spend thinking about the work area itself?

I'm curious to hear from people about what their offices are like, what works and what doesn't, and how their work concepts move from real life to online and back again.

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