We designed our London workspace to reflect the findings of Prof Jeremy Myerson’s ‘New Demographic, New Workspace’ book. The introduction of ‘the 3Cs’ was a concept he had initially conceived as part of the Welcoming Work study which Kinnarps had sponsored.

In our subsequent white paper ‘Beyond Time & Motion’, Professor Myerson revisited the 3Cs with a view on how it remained relevant in the evolving digital age:

Collectively, the emerging workplace trends, driven by digital technology, tell us that architectural workspace can never be the same again. But equally, the primary requirements of knowledge workers that we identified through the Welcoming Workplace study don’t disappear into cyberspace either. So there will inevitably be a meeting of minds in physical space, combining the special demands and characteristics of digital working with the basic imperatives to concentrate, collaborate and collaborate.

I describe it like this. The first C – concentration space – is required to scrutinize data. The speed, flow and sheer volume of digital data that is generated by most organisations today requires focused attention and analysis. Knowledge workers need spaces to really interrogate the information, to get their head down, to think and plan free from ‘groupthink’, away from noise and distraction.

The second C – collaboration space – is required to share data. Everyone brings their own data sets and data streams to the party; the best way to harness the potential of all this information – to see the connections and spot the gaps – is through intense teamwork in a special environment dedicated to the group. This is different from the casual geographical proximity of the open plan office; this is about coming together for a fixed period of time to get collaborative work done, with the right tools, the right atmosphere and the right settings in place.

The third C – contemplation space – is required to shun the data, to escape from it. We are in the slipstream of a multi-channel digital revolution so profound and so intense that we risk burnout in trying to deal with all the data and information flying at us 24 hours a day. (It almost makes you nostalgic for the days when just responding to emails was the main challenge.) Contemplation space is designed as an oasis to restore mind and body; it is off the beaten track and away from the madding crowd. In many contemplation spaces, laptops, mobiles or tablets are banned. It’s time off from staring at a screen. It’s time to sleep, dream and think, to let the mind go free.

Time and motion never really went away.

Recasting the three Cs as a response to the demands of digital working – concentration to scrutinise data, collaboration to share data and contemplation to escape from it – enables a range of organisations in knowledge-intensive sectors such as financial or professional services, consumer goods or technology development, to explore how they might tailor work environments more effectively to the needs of their workforce.

Thinking afresh about concentration space might encompass policies on standard workstations, space planning, provision of private workspace, protocols of open plan office behaviour and other aspects that will support the individual knowledge worker to focus uninterrupted on key tasks.

Thinking afresh about collaboration space might mean addressing the design of meeting rooms, audio-visual technology, social space and the ritual and protocols of group work to ensure knowledge teams flourish. Thinking afresh about contemplation space might entail turning social or work zones into quiet, hidden, breakaway spaces, with greenery, lighting and furniture to support rest and recovery.

Whatever companies choose to do, the pace of digital change will only get faster; the hum of the global digital machine will only get louder. Time and motion never really went away. It’s just that today it’s no longer about stopwatches and sequences – it’s all about software and screens. Creating work environments that make sense of our over-powering digital world – that humanise it and contextualize it – will increasingly matter to the premium talent that work for our most knowledge-intensive employers.

You can download the complete ‘Beyond Time & Motion’ whitepaper here.