Things you rarely see in the 2011 office

Despite renowned architect Frank Duffy claiming that the modern office is on its way out, it remains the base for the majority of people from 9 til 5. But new ways of working combined with new technology have made obsolete pieces of furniture that were, until recently, stalwarts in the office – and home.

1. The Desk
Experts (read consultants) in new ways of working would have us believe that the humble office desk is dead. Instead of being chained to our own personal bit of mdf, we will work in everything from office break-out spaces to cafes, drop-in meeting facilities and the kitchen table. But nothing has quite replaced the desk for sheer ergonomic comfort, as anyone who has spent a day hunched over a laptop in Starbucks will testify.  The size and shape of the desk has certainly changed – gone are the massive L shaped desks which took up half a room. Instead smaller desks, or collaborative benches are popular. And even the big law firms where massive mahogany desks were passed down the generations from father lawyers to son lawyers, have gone (but probably only to the home office).

2.Tea trolleys
The distant rattle of the tea trolley was the highlight of most office workers’ afternoons. The steaming aluminum tea pot would hove into sight, and all work was forgotten as workers queued up in soup-kitchen style for their brew and a slice of, often homemade, cake. Sadly the nearest most workplaces get to the tea trolley is the sandwich man and his crate of tepid sandwiches which have already been polluted by a circular London commute at exhaust pipe height.

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Park Life

Local authorities have a new money-making idea to make up for the funding shortfall from central government – to charge people such as personal trainers for using the parks as their workplace. Potentially even professional dog-walkers and nannies could have to pay. Hammersmith and Fulham parks department announced the move recently. Parks suffer from “recurring activities that took place on a commercial basis, such as private football coaching, which needed to be identified and charged”. The council said this month that use of the parks is free “however, as soon as personal trainers start charging and making money out of the park, they are running a business and would need a licence,” a report in FM World said.

Personal trainers have argued that they already pay for the upkeep of the parks through their council tax, but there is a reasonable argument that as they’re using them to generate commercial revenue, they could not necessarily do elsewhere (or would be charged to do so) then they should contribute some of that revenue to the park’s owner. Other businesses pay for the rent and upkeep of their own workplaces after all.

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