Working in a fishbowl


There is pressure reduce the size and floorspace of buildings. Employees still need to be continually responsive to projects, visible to other people to collaborate when necessary, yet highly productive, so it's no wonder that new ways to support people shifting between these modes are appearing.

There are some job roles where people have to do very concentrated work, not just for some chunks of time during the day, but potentially all day.

In the past, an office with the door has been the classic solution, more recently dedicated space in a cubicle with decent soundproofing and now there is yet another shift.

Colliers International have called it the "fishbowl" and if you look around furniture suppliers you will see various versions of this.

The assumption is that reducing distractions from sight and sound supports privacy and concentration. 'Fishbowl furniture' appears to have features such as extended height walls, materials with acoustic properties and a level of creature comfort that encourages the person to linger longer and get work done.

Here are some questions you might like to ask about these designs:

1. Is it possible to 'own' one of these spaces, rather than just 'rent'?

2. Where you leave things if you need security while you go away for a short period of time?


3. Is there power integrated into the furniture so that you can use a laptop for longer periods?

4. What about air quality? Is there adequate circulation within the space? Poor air quality can be associated with lower productivity.

5. How are key productivity tools such as a laptop and document supported?

6. How is adequate lighting provided?

The unspoken question is how well do these environments support someone has to do a lot of concentrated work on a daily basis, especially if this work is critical to business success?

While actively based work environments might promise everyone what they need, it seems that giving someone the dedicated space when everyone else has to share might create problems. Will staff really believe they have been treated equally in the eyes of their employer and how much does this matter?