Hugh Pickens writes:
Lindsey Kaufman writes in the Washington Post that despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country with about 70 percent of US. offices having no or low partitions. Silcon Valley has led the way with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisting famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers with a single room, stretching 10 acres, where everyone will sit in the open with moveable furniture. Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But according to Kaufman employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity with a 2013 study showing that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction says Kaufman. "Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of under-performance in their generation," writes Maria Konnikova. "They enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run."
My personal take on was to give a lot more common areas for collaborative work, but not completely open. More like a conference room on steroids. While there would be no assigned offices, there would be private spaces where you could dock a laptop and have multimonitor support, USB strips, faster network access, "green screen" behind you and HD webcam, etc. It didn't have to be a full office exactly, but it would be more secluded and designed for privacy.
Perhaps something like hub and spoke with isolated conference rooms surrounded by those private pods. Conference rooms connected by hall ways or larger common areas. That always seemed to balance it out to me.
Because that's no way to start a flame war.
Unless there are significantly more private spaces than people needing them, I imagine my work day in a place like this would include some time-wasting process of finding a place to work. Why add that to my day, when you can build an office (or cube, if you must) once and amortize the cost of that office over people who use it for the life of the building?
I think you're assuming that a 1:1 relationship between private spaces and employees might be required. Also, a private space need not be that big, or specifically any larger than a normal sized cubicle enclosed with a partition door. In a good size conference room, you might get 6-8 private spaces around it. If you treat certain conference areas as department groupings, you might find that you're private space is more less reserved in the same way DHCP reservations work. Remember, I'm just working with the idea of equality between all the workers, and that any space can be occupied by anyone from TFS.
Breaks should be staggered anyways, and assigned to windows of time where uses cases require it like Call Centers. Employees should be encouraged to either leave the office and walk around (exercise), or go to the break room. Which can easily be encouraged by making private Internet use on the corporate network carry punishments up to being fired, yet providing unmonitored Internet connections in the break room. Don't want to be interviewed by HR and fired? Go to the break room. It's free, it's comfortable, it was made for you. There's a good amount of time spent talking and working with others before you go off on your own. For many reasons, I don't see 100% of the private spaces in use at any one time at 1:1. Besides, I'm sure that an optimum number could be figured out.
As for the reasons why, the few minutes it takes for you to find a place to sit down is well worth the increase in productivity and the overall feelings of happiness and wellness. For that matter, I don't think if the ratio of private spaces to open areas is all that difficult to figure out, or that you would be spending that much time finding a place for it to be disruptive. Also, why wouldn't the common area be the *first* place you sit down to speak with others and start your day? Unless your work sucks so much the real problem is being around others.