"Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell" - Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

  1. if you’re good for everyone, you’re great for no-one.

  2. 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.”

  1. 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.

-Alex

···


/ah
indyhall.org
betterwork.co

On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:56 AM, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace <wmbe…@locusworkspace.com=“mailto:[email protected]”>> wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “Coworking” group.

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And this is not that surprising. It is much easier to change a floorplan, which merely involves throwing money around, than it is to change a culture, which is a lot of hard, and frequently uncomfortable, work, on the part of everyone from the CEO on down. It is hard because it means changing ingrained habits, and uncomfortable because it forces people to admit that possibly they were doing it wrong in the past.

···

On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 7:35 AM, Alex Hillman [email protected] wrote:

  1. if you’re good for everyone, you’re great for no-one.
  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

-Alex


/ah
indyhall.org
betterwork.co

On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:56 AM, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace <wmbe…@locusworkspace.com=“mailto:[email protected]”>> wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


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twb
member, Workantile
@twbrandt

When we asked members of coworking spaces in our surveys what bothered them the most, the biggest problem was the noise, a range of 15% and 20%. However, the noise has almost NO negative impact on the popularity of a coworking space. When asking members how much they like their coworking spaces, there was almost no difference between members who have or or don’t have a problem with noise. A membership is rather cancelled when a person doesn’t like other people at a coworking space. That’s an option which most of employees don’t have, no wonder why they would prefer a private office in this case. It’s a point which was not a part of the discussed research.

At betahaus, where we work, the operators once created a silent room as reaction to noise problems. As result, they were less people who worked at this part of betahaus. This room was quite big, probably too big. The operators re-arranged this room again, this time by setting up a normal open space surrounded by some team offices, mainly for those who work for customer support.

Btw, there is also a big difference between the sound of a sea, and a jackhammer nearby. Regular noise on a low level is usually less disturbing.

Carsten- +1 Like.

Joel

···

On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM, Carsten Foertsch [email protected] wrote:

When we asked members of coworking spaces in our surveys what bothered them the most, the biggest problem was the noise, a range of 15% and 20%. However, the noise has almost NO negative impact on the popularity of a coworking space. When asking members how much they like their coworking spaces, there was almost no difference between members who have or or don’t have a problem with noise. A membership is rather cancelled when a person doesn’t like other people at a coworking space. That’s an option which most of employees don’t have, no wonder why they would prefer a private office in this case. It’s a point which was not a part of the discussed research.

At betahaus, where we work, the operators once created a silent room as reaction to noise problems. As result, they were less people who worked at this part of betahaus. This room was quite big, probably too big. The operators re-arranged this room again, this time by setting up a normal open space surrounded by some team offices, mainly for those who work for customer support.

Btw, there is also a big difference between the sound of a sea, and a jackhammer nearby. Regular noise on a low level is usually less disturbing.

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “Coworking” group.

To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected].

For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out.

Thanks for sharing this. I found the HBR version of this article particularly insightful thanks to its regression analysis into main frustration factors and impact of these factors on overall worker satisfaction (see spider diagram)

There’s a big difference between creating an open-plan office (where there is only open work stations and some meeting rooms), and designing a collaborative workspace (whether that using coworking or activity-based working principles) that truly caters to the working and personal needs of users (often incorporating a variety of work settings). “Lack of sound privacy” and “lack of space” are not direct outcomes of an open-plan office but a poorly designed open-plan office. I’ve seen and heard plenty of first-hand examples from poor implementation and execution of an “open-plan office” (giving the name a bad rap and resulting in statistics like this survey).

The HBR article notes that theamount of space was both the most frustrating and greatest determinant to overall worker satisfaction, yet this contradicts our experience in the coworking industry. We have some of the highest density of worker populations (higher than any activity-based corporate workplaces) and yet our members like our workspace so much and feel it contributes to their productivity that they actually****pay to work in our spaces. It makes me question whether it is really the amount of space (e.g. in square meters/feet per person) or the access to the right type of space that is the biggest challenge / opportunity.

In the research presented, a variable representing access to a variety of workspace types was not included. In our experience, people don’t mind being in a high-density space, so long as they have the access to facilities to support what they need to do (private phone booths for phone calls, cafe style environment for informal meetings, sufficient formal meeting spaces, solo work booths for focused solo work etc). At Hub Australia, we have incorporated a variety of different spaces (including things like Buzzihoods and small rooms for solo focused work) to ensure people have the “sufficient space” to make phone calls and do uninterrupted work. To me, this shows that the “access to space” identified in the research may not be specifically access to a certain quantity of space, but the availability and variety of spaces.

The most successful work style transitionsalso ensure a sufficient level of culture change readiness and management is undertaken. If time is taken to consult with the users to understand their current and future use and need states, and invite them to participate actively in the changes it’s likely to be much more engaging and successful. I recommend taking 6-9 months to fully understand user needs and begin to prototype physical workplace designs.

···

On Thursday, November 21, 2013 8:56:29 PM UTC+11, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Hello everyone. I’m really liking this discussion about more of the design/architecture of coworking spaces, or at least open plans. There’ll be at least 1-2 sessions on this @GCUC in Kansas City, so I hope many of you attend both GCUC and these sessions.

As for the below responses, I fully agree.

Throwing $ into the physical elements of the space doesn't solely improve worker experience...neither does solely injecting cultural changes.  Both need to work together, and neither have more importance.

And yes, I totally agree that open-plan and collaborative workspace are not synonymous, but commonly and effectively complement each other.

And finally, seating density can succeed...and fail - it's all a matter of what's appropriate given all things.  Caroline makes a great point that our members PAY for our relatively high seating density, but HBR doesn't distinguish these situations between private offices, and office biz models.  Personally, I've been experimenting with - honestly - insanely high seating density, compared to industry standards, both real estate and coworking.  That said, I'm being very selective where and how.  It also helps that I have private clients who hire me as an architect to design their spaces and so I get to use those projects as well to keep experimenting and iterating.

JEROME CHANG

Mid-Wilshire
5405 Wilshire Blvd (2 blocks west of La Brea) | Los Angeles CA 90036
ph: (323) 330-9505

Downtown
529 S. Broadway, Suite 4000 (@Pershing Square) | Los Angeles CA 90013
ph: (213) 550-2235

Thanks for sharing this. I found the HBR version of this article particularly insightful thanks to its regression analysis into main frustration factors and impact of these factors on overall worker satisfaction (see spider diagram)

There’s a big difference between creating an open-plan office (where there is only open work stations and some meeting rooms), and designing a collaborative workspace (whether that using coworking or activity-based working principles) that truly caters to the working and personal needs of users (often incorporating a variety of work settings). “Lack of sound privacy” and “lack of space” are not direct outcomes of an open-plan office but a poorly designed open-plan office. I’ve seen and heard plenty of first-hand examples from poor implementation and execution of an “open-plan office” (giving the name a bad rap and resulting in statistics like this survey).

The HBR article notes that theamount of space was both the mostfrustrating and greatest determinant to overall worker satisfaction, yet thiscontradicts our experience in the coworking industry. We have some of thehighest density of worker populations (higher than any activity-based corporate workplaces) and yet our members like our workspace so much and feel it contributes to their productivity that they actually**pay to work **in our spaces. It makes me question whether it is really the amount of space (e.g.in square meters/feet per person) or the access to the right type of space that is the biggest challenge / opportunity.

In the research presented, a variable representing access to a variety of workspace types was not included. In our experience, people **don’t mind being in a high-density **space, so long as they have the access to facilities to support what they need to do (private phone booths for phone calls, cafe style environment for informal meetings, sufficient formal meeting spaces, solo work booths for focused solo work etc). At Hub Australia, we have incorporated a variety of different spaces (including things like Buzzihoods and small rooms for solo focused work) to ensure people have the “sufficient space” to make phone calls and do uninterrupted work. To me, this shows that the “access to space” identified in the research may not be specifically access to a certain quantity of space, but the availability and variety of spaces.

The most successful work style transitionsalso ensure a sufficient level of culture change readiness and management is undertaken. If time is taken to consult with the users to understand their current and future use and need states, and invite them to **participate actively **in the changes it’s likely to be much more engaging and successful. I recommend taking 6-9 months to fully understand user needs and begin to prototype physical workplace designs.


···

On Nov 24, 2013, at 4:27 AM, Caroline McLaren [email protected] wrote:
On Nov 21, 2013, at 4:35 AM, Alex Hillman [email protected] wrote:

  1. if you’re good for everyone, you’re great for no-one.
  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

-Alex


/ah
indyhall.org
betterwork.co

On Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:56 AM, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace <wmbe…@locusworkspace.com=“mailto:[email protected]”>> wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


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Such wonderful responses! I particular like the emphasis on the importance of how open plan offices are implemented.

I like to think about evolutionary processes. One common model in evolutionary theory is the fitness landscape, sort of a distribution of peaks and valleys, with some peaks much higher than others, the height corresponding to fitness according to some criterion (in standard evolutionary accounts differential reproductive success, but it could be anything including work productivity or work satisfaction). Each peak is a “local optima”, the peak of fitness before the system needs to descend to some less fit state before it can ascend to an even more fit local optima somewhere else on the landscape/distribution. For evolutionary processes there is a big challenge to get from one peak to another. Presumably we’ve had a lot of time to co-evolve work styles and architectural systems to suit one another using closed-plan offices, leading to a kind of closed-plan office fitness peak. The ideal open-plan office / work style combo might have a much higher peak, but given the time we’ve had for the cultural evolution of closed-plan offices, maybe we should expect open-plan offices to struggle in comparison for some time, moving down in fitness before they can move back up to a new local optima that might be much “fitter” overall. I wonder how much this is a standard issue with cultural change from some long-standing tradition.

Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that out loud :), but a couple of the posts here got me thinking about this.

···

On Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:56:29 AM UTC+1, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

maybe we should expect open-plan offices to struggle in comparison for some time, moving down in fitness before they can move back up to a new local optima that might be much “fitter” overall. I wonder how much this is a standard issue with cultural change from some long-standing tradition.

I agree strongly with this, assuming I fully grok your assessment. :slight_smile:

A lot of the “rehabilitation” that needs doing requires careful over-compensation, even if only for a period of time for experimentation.

I think about this in terms of a pendulum swing. On the biggest scale, we’ve swung (and arguably over-swung) in the direction of optimization for a certain set of local maxima like efficiency and scale and we’re starting to swing in the other direction for local maxima like effectiveness and happiness.

Neither set of local maxima on their own is correct, or sustainable. A happy workforce that can’t turn a profit isn’t any more unsustainable than the corporate horrors of profitable unhappiness that our industry is supposedly a reaction to.

Based on some of the strong anti-open workspace opinions that showed up on my blog comments after turning my previous reply into a post, I’m starting to lean back towards a thesis that I’ve been chewing on for a while about the difference between people who love open floor plans and hate open floor plans.

Here’s a sneak preview of the outline:

The reason that open floor plans DO work in Coworking is because people choose it.

The reason private offices DO work in Coworking spaces is because people choose it.

The reason that private offices DON’T work in Coworking spaces is because people choose it.

The reason that open floor plans DON’T work in corporations is because people don’t choose it.

The reason that private offices DON’T work in corporations is because people don’t choose it.

-Alex

···

/ah
indyhall.org
coworking in philadelphia

On Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace [email protected] wrote:

Such wonderful responses! I particular like the emphasis on the importance of how open plan offices are implemented.

I like to think about evolutionary processes. One common model in evolutionary theory is the fitness landscape, sort of a distribution of peaks and valleys, with some peaks much higher than others, the height corresponding to fitness according to some criterion (in standard evolutionary accounts differential reproductive success, but it could be anything including work productivity or work satisfaction). Each peak is a “local optima”, the peak of fitness before the system needs to descend to some less fit state before it can ascend to an even more fit local optima somewhere else on the landscape/distribution. For evolutionary processes there is a big challenge to get from one peak to another. Presumably we’ve had a lot of time to co-evolve work styles and architectural systems to suit one another using closed-plan offices, leading to a kind of closed-plan office fitness peak. The ideal open-plan office / work style combo might have a much higher peak, but given the time we’ve had for the cultural evolution of closed-plan offices, maybe we should expect open-plan offices to struggle in comparison for some time, moving down in fitness before they can move back up to a new local optima that might be much “fitter” overall. I wonder how much this is a standard issue with cultural change from some long-standing tradition.

Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that out loud :), but a couple of the posts here got me thinking about this.

On Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:56:29 AM UTC+1, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

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We have an open-plan office here at Pto de Contato (www.pto.ec) and sometimes (rarely actually) the issue of noise level comes up. We then talk to the noisy coworkers and it’s done.

Of course open-plan offices are not for everybody, as aren’t cubicles, home office, vault closed offices (sic), or any other offices that might exist now or in the future. Our world has more than 6 billion people and each and every one has he’s way of living and he’s preferences of working space.

One thing we know for sure, because we have been living it for the past 5 years. Most of the workers (be them freelancers or corporate workers that were dying in their own cubicles) that have passed through here were very glad and claimed to be more productive than their previous situation.

And we have many success cases of cross work, where one coworker makes a project with another, and some we know that wouldn’t happen in other conditions.

We use to say that coworking (and open-plan offices by the way) are not substitutes to regular offices, but they are a complement and spaces where you can meet people you wouldn’t in a usual work routine and that can contribute a lot to your own project.

As for privacy, one can know in 5 minutes sitting close to someone if they are paying attention to what you are talking, and in this case, we have other 49 seats where you can change to. Or meeting rooms and other more private areas if you need to openly discuss a sensitive subject. It’s just a matter of getting used to a new environment.

It’s sad to see that are still that many people (and influent ones) with such a short mind.

Cheers to you all and long live open-plan offices.

Marcus Trugilho

Pto de Contato

A place of ideas for Entrepreneurs

···

On Thursday, November 21, 2013 7:56:29 AM UTC-2, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Essentially great workspace is not about how big it is, but how well you use it. I wrote an article for Society 3.0 this week to provide more insight into what we can learn from the study, as well as some key gaps missing in traditional open-space design (user-orientation and diversity of spaces)

···

On Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:32:01 AM UTC+11, MarcusTrugilho wrote:

We have an open-plan office here at Pto de Contato (www.pto.ec) and sometimes (rarely actually) the issue of noise level comes up. We then talk to the noisy coworkers and it’s done.

Of course open-plan offices are not for everybody, as aren’t cubicles, home office, vault closed offices (sic), or any other offices that might exist now or in the future. Our world has more than 6 billion people and each and every one has he’s way of living and he’s preferences of working space.

One thing we know for sure, because we have been living it for the past 5 years. Most of the workers (be them freelancers or corporate workers that were dying in their own cubicles) that have passed through here were very glad and claimed to be more productive than their previous situation.

And we have many success cases of cross work, where one coworker makes a project with another, and some we know that wouldn’t happen in other conditions.

We use to say that coworking (and open-plan offices by the way) are not substitutes to regular offices, but they are a complement and spaces where you can meet people you wouldn’t in a usual work routine and that can contribute a lot to your own project.

As for privacy, one can know in 5 minutes sitting close to someone if they are paying attention to what you are talking, and in this case, we have other 49 seats where you can change to. Or meeting rooms and other more private areas if you need to openly discuss a sensitive subject. It’s just a matter of getting used to a new environment.

It’s sad to see that are still that many people (and influent ones) with such a short mind.

Cheers to you all and long live open-plan offices.

Marcus Trugilho

Pto de Contato

A place of ideas for Entrepreneurs

On Thursday, November 21, 2013 7:56:29 AM UTC-2, Will Bennis, Locus Workspace wrote:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2013/nov/18/open-plan-offices-bad-harvard-business-review

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?

Will

Here's a great counter article. http://workplaceinsight.net/we-shouldnt-be-too-quick-to-demonise-the-open-plan-office/ in response to all the articles lately about this very issue.