Rafe Needleman wants businesses to have sensible naming schemes for conference rooms, but the underlying problem is still ‘anywhereism’:
The new aesthetic of work, work tech, and workplace is what can be thought of as anywhereism.
The official story is that today’s workplace is designed to increase the likelihood of serendipity, creativity, innovation, and human happiness, but the hard reality is that most companies are decreasing the square footage of offices to save money, even when evidence suggests that many people are less happy, and less productive in open spaces, especially introverts [see The Privacy Crisis — Steelcase].
The aesthetics and cultural underpinnings of Anywhereism — the inherent rootlessness and interchangeability of places, parts, and people — is now deeply engrained in work culture. We live in occupied territory. The mandate is we can (and must) work anywhere, that there can be no boundaries between work and non-work, and everywhere we work (which is anywhere) should look and feel like everywhere else.
This is not a good thing, and we can hope that it is only an intermediate state, and not a final one.
As Tokumitsu and Mol said in Life at the Nowhere Office, these aesthetics center on openness and impersonality: ‘The new office presents itself as the interior design equivalent of everyone’s friend. It is comfortable and always available, a temporary platform onto which workers alight for meetings and some deskwork before fluttering off to another meeting, the home office, another job. But importantly, leave no trace behind. Remember: You have never been here.’
Can we make places to work and live where we leave actually traces behind, even after we have left? Can we reject the premises and realities of Anywhereism?
The rootlessness of corporate space is only highlighted by Needleman’s desire to be able to find a schedule conference room. It’s a parable of the transitoriness of open space offices and more damningly of open space work culture.