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This desk is insane, are businesses taking the collaborative office space too far?

collaborative workspaces

Collaborative workspaces like the one above are nothing new. But now businesses are taking it to a whole other level.

You have to see “The Desk” to believe it. This completely insane 1,100 foot desk redefines the meaning of desk. It has cubbies and meeting spaces and really, just click that link and take a look at the pictures.

But it begs the question: is The Desk a sign of office workspace improvement, or just a publicity stunt by New York marketing firm Barbarian Group?

Big workrooms are all the rage

The partitioned open office space, the dreaded cubicle farm, have both been around since the beginning of time or thereabouts. Now businesses are ripping out the partitions, freeing up the space so everyone can work together !

The belief is that this could facilitate better, more efficient communication in the office.

“If walls are barriers to success, let’s tear them down”, writes Matt Van Hoven, in his recent piece on the demise of the cubicle.

Although there’s a distinct trend moving towards open office space, things are changing at different rates across different industries. In businesses where there’s a strong hierarchical culture, workers, execs and managers are all separated from one another with more space and privacy dished out to those nearer the top.

Can gooi businesses benefit from this approach?

YES!

Collaborative open spaces can help boost creativity and casual communication within an office…

BUT

Psychological and physical privacy are important factors in determining actual productivity. The risk is that distraction will be rife in an open space. And as studies (and common sense) suggest, constant distractions tend to lower productivity.

The simple answer is that finding the right balance of personal office space and collaborative work space can be difficult.

Let’s take a look.

Managers and executives love the idea of Open Office Space

Executives love that they can skip “leasing a cramped office for $2.50 per square foot” and get “4,000 square feet of industrial space at 69 cents” instead.

But as anyone who has experienced working in this kind of space knows, there is often the sense that managers just want to be able to wander around, monitoring what’s going on. It’s not dissimilar to the slinking teachers do in the classroom, keeping an eye on productivity.

Employees hate it

“Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” writes Oliver Burkeman. Or to put it mildly, employees tend to dislike being forced to work in an open office environment whether it’s completely partitionless or partitioned into cubicles.

Sarah Green, guest blogger at Harvard Business review looked into research showing that lack “of sound privacy was far and away the most despised issue in the survey.”

Finding balance

To maintain maximum amount of sanity and efficiency in an office, it seems that personal choice is key. The fact is (drumroll please) that people are different, some people prefer working in solitude while others don’t. Similarly, some tasks require silent focus while others require access to immediate input and feedback.

Architectural firm Gensler’s recent workplace survey found that “knowledge workers whose companies allow them to help decide when, where, and how they work were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, performed better, and viewed their company as more innovative than competitors that didn’t offer such choice.”

So, a work environment that allows people as much personal autonomy as possible gives employees a performance boost.

Help Me Help You

This is a classic case of helping your employees be as effective as possible. Making life easier for managers and executives rarely translates to better overall performance. Give your workers the opportunity to choose what is most effective for them.

 

Newsroom panaroma” by David Sim is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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