Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Libby Sander, Lecturer, Bond University
image

Looking back on the changes in office design over the past 30 years, it is easy to see why some employees feel as if they have been subjects in a giant ongoing experiment.

For decades the office has moved from private, to open plan and more recently, no desk at all. These changes have been driven almost simultaneously by the push to reduce real estate cost and to also increase collaboration among employees.

While savings in real estate costs appear to have been achieved, the negative effects of the open plan office on employees have now been well documented. A large body of research shows these offices are noiser; employees have difficulties concentrating and are unable to hold private conversations.

The promise of increased collaboration in open plan appears to have very little evidence to support the idea. A study of more than 42,000 employees found that open plan office environments did little to increase interaction.

Given all this evidence, it is perhaps unsurprising that a recent study by Oxford Economics found the impact of open-plan office design is far greater than executives realise. The report found both productivity and employee peace of mind suffers in the open workplace. Although there appears to be a growing realisation of the negative effects, the results showed few companies have effective strategies in place to address the problems.

Another key issue in the open plan office is that it doesn’t cater to either differences in individuals or differences in the type of work that needs to be undertaken. The time workers are spending on collaborative tasks is decreasing, while time on quiet concentrated work is increasing.

In response to these issues, organisations have been experimenting with ways to segment workplaces to overcome these problems. Articles on new office design are peppered with concepts such as “caves”, “campfires”, “town squares” and “city zones”.

The segmented office is based around the idea that different spaces are needed to support different tasks and different personalities. Sleep pods, library spaces, mobile-free zones and cafes are becoming standard features in new office designs.

Employees are encouraged to move between the different areas based on what they are doing at the time. Tasks such as taking a phone call, holding a meeting, doing work that requires focus and quiet or work that needs collaboration with others are all allocated separate areas.

While seen as a positive move by some employees, the changes often don’t go far enough to allow concentrated, productive work. What if your co-workers are just noisy people in general?

Julian Treasure, sound consultant and author of the book Sound Business, suggests employees are one-third as productive in open office designs as in quiet rooms. In research I am currently conducting, many employees report that having to find a space to work each morning is tiring, while others resent having to move around to do different tasks.

The practicality of moving to different spaces, carrying laptops, power cords and other documents and materials needed to complete work can be tiresome at best and impractical at worst. The inability to find co-workers when needed appears to be another common complaint in early results of the study I am undertaking, with some employees opting out of IT-based location identification systems in order to not be interrupted.

Other key issues emerging in my research on this topic are that often the number of phone booths and meeting rooms are limited, resulting in wasted time and frustration trying to find somewhere to meet or take a call. When the need for confidential conversations arise, such issues often need to be dealt with immediately. Employees report to me that finding private places to converse in such situations is challenging, and being told to “book a room” or “go to a coffee shop” is not uncommon.

The overall office size in Australia is relatively small. As a result, offices being designed to embrace the segmented idea can end up having a gym with a rowing machine as well as the cafe space within metres of the open plan desk area.

It seems we still have a way to go. Recent research in the Harvard Business Review indicates the push for collaboration is too much of a good thing and staff are increasingly demanding quiet spaces to work where they can focus and concentrate.

With many working from home or other third places to get work done, does the office still matter?

Some authors suggest the office will die out all together. Nikil Saval, in his book Cubed, goes so far as to suggest leisure is over as the office now follows its employees everywhere thanks to the cloud.

Yet the imperative to get it right appears more important than ever. While we may indeed be able to work from anywhere, it seems we still want to come to the office.

Two-thirds of employees prefer to build relationships face-to-face, and the majority prefer to build that connection in an ideal workplace. How we create the ideal workplace remains to be seen.

Authors: Libby Sander, Lecturer, Bond University

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-backlash-against-open-plan-offices-segmented-space-61506

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Scott Morrison on Credlin

PETA CREDLIN: Thank you for your time tonight, PM I know you've got a lot on your plate. I'll get to the issue of bushfires in just a moment, but I can't let it go unremarked that with Australia Day...

Peta Credlin - avatar Peta Credlin

Scott Morrison interview with Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.    HADLEY: Jeez you copped a hammering while I was away.   PRIME MINISTER: Goes with the job mate.    HADLEY: Well, yo...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Immediate small business support for bushfire affected communities

In response to the devastating bushfires, the Morrison Government has today announced a comprehensive suite of measures to immediately support impacted small businesses.    This initial package ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

How to Design a Website That Best Represents Your Business

A business website is the modern equivalent of a traditional brick and mortar storefront. Since the majority of businesses today need an online presence, it is essential to choose a design that best...

News Company - avatar News Company

Guide to Start E-Commerce Business

If you can read this, you have access to the internet, and since you have access to the internet, you must have thought about buying something from an e-store. Today, we live in a time very contrast...

News - avatar News

Tips To Buy Office Desks From Sydney

Desks are essential components to the makeup of any office. The right type of desk makes the workflow smoothly. The majority of the people look for desks that are comfortable to work on and need lit...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

A Travel Guide for Vacations Overseas

There are two types of tourists. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, and we could be talking about any possible part of traveling.  In this case, we're discussing those who stick to the ma...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Family Travel Handbook from Lonely Planet

Everything you need to know to take unforgettable trips with your children   Full of practical advice, ideas and inspiration for every type of family, Lonely Planet's The Family Travel Handbook ...

Adam Bennett - avatar Adam Bennett

3 Ideas for a Family-Friendly Holiday to Bali

A family holiday is always an exciting time, but it can often come with its fair share of challenges, especially when trying to keep every member of the family happy. Thankfully, the beautiful islan...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo