Vanishing offices: Answer to work-life balance?

Katie Holliday

Getting your work done during contracted hours can be tricky, especially in Asia where working late is common, but a forward thinking company in Holland believes it has the answer.

Amsterdam-based design studio Heldergroen has introduced the concept of a 'disappearing office', an effort to reinforce a stronger work-life balance for its employees, lifestyle publication TrendHunter reported last week.

At 6pm, desks are lifted into the ceiling using a key-operated lifting mechanism and steel ceiling cables. Computers, stationary and paperwork are left in their exact positions for the morning, leaving employees no choice but to step away from their work.

Once the desks have been lifted the office space is available for employees to use however they like, as long as it's not work related.

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"We are able to pull the tables up into the ceiling and make the whole room into a dance floor, yoga studio, trend session, networking reception, or anything else you can think of--the floor is literally yours," Sander Veenendaal, creative director for Heldergroen Creative, the firm that owns the studio, told business publication Fast Company.

Netizens approve

Netizens took to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR - News) to voice their approval.

Asia's office culture

Although the 'disappearing office' is unlikely to catch on anytime soon, the ethos behind the idea is a hot topic. In Asia, where there is a deeply ingrained culture of working long hours, some are questioning whether productivity drops off when employees work late.

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Last week, a survey by recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley showed that 82 percent of Singapore residents work longer than their stipulated hours. However, only 27 percent felt they were more productive during those extra hours.

Numerous medical studies have shown that reduced sleep decreases productivity. According to the Detroit Medical Center, there is compelling evidence that sleep deprivation negatively affects job performance, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

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Bigger companies

Heldergroen is not alone. Some of the world's largest companies are also taking initiatives to promote a healthy work-life balance.

Google recently ranked highly in a work-life balance survey conducted by and Forbes. It was praised for its on-site healthcare, travel assurance and emergency assistance, extended time off and financial assistance following child birth, tuition reimbursement for job-related coursework and free or discounted legal advice and services, Forbes reported.

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD - News) told CNBC this week that work is banned in their offices once a month, and employees are encouraged to partake in fun group activities.

While rolling out the concept of a 'disappearing office' might be an extreme way to promote a healthy work-life balance, the Dutch design company's idea has certainly got people thinking.

Let's just hope the Heldergroen employees don't make the mistake of leaving their wallets on their desks!

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