JUST AS MEN AND WOMEN ARE REQUIRED TO BE ALERT, ENERGETIC AND ACTIVE AT WORK, THEY ALSO NEED TO STEP BACK TO ABSORB AND PROCESS INFORMATION, TO SIFT THE DAY’S INPUT AND PLACE IT INTO A LARGER FRAMEWORK. IN OTHER WORDS, WE NEED PERIODS OF QUIET, TIME FOR “THE INTERIOR PLACID MURMUR OF SILENCE” —TO REST AND RECHARGE — IF WE ARE TO BE TRUL Y CREATIVE AND PRODUCTIVE.
Often distracted by the buzzing hive of the work environment, many people now seek out sheltered places in which to withdraw to think, write, read and rest. Even in an open plan with no private offices or enclosed meeting rooms, designers are creating partial refuge by means of reading alcoves, booth seating, high-back chairs and semi-private hubs that allow for retreat, while maintaining some connection to the larger space. For a deeper sense of refuge, no-talk zones like a library, meditation room or another space where cell phones and chit-chat are forbidden can help to mitigate feelings of stress and preserve cognitive and emotional health.
Not every company has the resources to create sleeping nooks like those provided by Google and Uber, but freestanding, cocoon-like structures can also offer a pleasant niche in which to retreat. These pods or hubs may be engineered with soft, tactile surfaces that help to diffuse sound and can be equipped with comfortable seating and lighting that illuminates the individual work zone. Such small, sheltered spaces are not about isolation or getting away from work, but rather about working with less distraction and a lower level of stimulation.
According to an article by Gina Trapani in the Harvard Business Review, some of the best creative work is done in “times of reflection and idleness. Studies have shown that the wandering mind is more likely to have a Eureka! moment of clarity and creativity. Taking breaks…gives our brains time to do a kind of long term, big picture thinking….”
Jeff Reynar, Engineering Director at Facebook, comments on the company’s Frank Gehry designed New York office in the historic Wanamaker Building. "Though everybody has a desk in the middle of the floor, you’ll also see that there are lots of quiet, tucked away corners where you can go sit on a couch, sit on a chair, and get some work done away from the hustle and bustle of your team."