if you’re good for everyone, you’re great for no-one.
earlier this year, noise levels came up as an opportunity for improving Indy Hall during one of our own internal research projects.
Curious for more details, I followed up with a subsequent line of questions: where so you believe the noise is coming from? Is it people on their phones, people talking to each other at their desks, people talking to each other in nearby common areas, or something else entirely?
The results of that question were evenly spread across the options (ha!) but the real answer emerged: WAY more people than had mentioned noise issues spoke up and said “Please don’t make Indy Hall more quiet. I come here for the noise. I love that buzz. I can’t get it anywhere else. If I wanted silence, I’d stay at home or go to the library.”
- I’ve worked on several projects now re: open floor plan implementations in corporate settings. Every time it looks like this:
company spends a boatload of money on design, architects, and furniture
everybody hates it, rebellion, etc (not unlike the article)
Alex’s phone rings, “why isn’t this working?”
My first question is, “well what did you change?” The answer is ALWAYS environment. It’s NEVER anything related to culture, management or communication.
That’s the problem. The environment needs to match the culture, the management, and the communication.
Two concrete examples:
A) manager cites that she likes the flexibility of choosing different areas to work, but…there’s a new problem. “I never know where my team is. I spend half of my day hunting them down.”
The communication and leadership techniques were never given to the team on how to effectively check in and report to each other. It’s not so much about “flatness” but a “network” style of communication rather than a hub and spoke style.
B) employees hate the open floor plan. Cite all sorts of things like in the article. So I start to dig into the specifics.
A common pattern emerges: trust. People don’t like having people able to walk by and see what they’re doing. They feel like their manager is hovering more (which she may or may not be - the point is the feeling). “Someone’s always looking for a way to get a leg up, or take credit.”
Again, a culture issue. Zero work is being done by management or staff to build or reinforce trust in the workplace, or worse, they actively do things to chip away at trust (this is a huge systemic issue that repeats across basically every project I’ve worked on).
Without trust, “open” isn’t possible. And that goes far beyond floor plans.
That’s just a sampling of my own research. I, too, have had my personal biases challenged a lot during this work, but continue to discover that the root problems are consistent - and have VERY LITTLE to do with space design (a few exceptions, I could talk about those another time). The issues are nearly 100% caused by pre-existing cultural problems that the space exacerbated, and/or a very poor approach to cultural “change management” to get it in line with the new space long before the millions are spent on furniture.
On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:56 AM, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace <wmbe…@locusworkspace.com=“mailto:[email protected]”>> wrote:
Putting this out there because I suspect what gets posted is generally filtered toward the “coworking positive”.
While cubicles are the worst, this article is about shortcomings of open-plan offices more generally.
Putting aside the obvious fact that even if open-plan offices aren’t for everyone, they’re certainly preferred by many of us, my existing bias has been that most independent workers would do better (in terms of psychological health as well as productivity and work quality) over the long run in a social work environment than in a private/enclosed office. But articles like this make me wonder if that really is just my own bias.
Most of the findings suggested are contrary to what I would expect for independent workers, and I wonder how much the results here may be contingent on working in an organization (where being in an open plan office also corresponds to being lower in the work hierarchy and where many of the people you’re working alongside are implicit competitors).
Thoughts? Where does this article go wrong (other than suggesting one size fits all)? Does it suggest that ideal coworking space design would work include ample opportunities for more private work and more isolated collaboration?
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