Designing for Knowledge Workers

07 Sep 2021

future of working modern office

In 1959, Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” but generic use of this term has resulted in a generic approach to office design. Recent research suggests there are four distinct knowledge worker “character types.”

The Anchor is the typical sedentary office worker, someone who is reliably in the office every day and likely to be found at their desk during this time. While the Anchor can enjoy seniority as a hub figure within the organisation, most tasks are desk based and movement is limited to the areas around the workstation with journeys made to other functional spaces such as the café or a meeting room.

The Connector is the "needle and thread" within an organisation. They typically spend half of their time in different places around the building: in meeting rooms, in the café or at colleagues’ desks. The Connector depends on interaction with people from different departments and across different sections of the company, but these interactions remain focused internally within the office building.

The third character, the Gatherer, relies on many relationships generated away from the office. Spending around half the week away from the office at different appointments, the Gatherer can be found at client or customer offices, at other sites or using neutral third space locations such as cafés conferences or events. The office remains a central fulcrum in their week. To the office, the Gatherer brings back information, business and important new relationships.

The fourth typology incorporates a range of different types of knowledge worker who are, to a certain extent, visitors to their own office. Rarely in the office, the Navigator works for the organisation at arm’s length. The group includes the contractor who is employed on a project basis, the NED who attends the office a few times a month, and the consultant who arrives for a meeting and needs access to a space where they can sit down and use their laptop.

Our insight and research into the different needs of knowledge workers, who are commonly treated as a homogeneous group, enables an active tool for a better brief in the design of high-performing workplaces.