Please Be Quiet, We’re Trying to Collaborate

CLEARLINK's open office headquarters in Salt Lake City by Method Studios.

We blogged here about the office of the future, but not everyone is sold on the merits of the open office.

Last week, The New York Times posted an article that presented the other side of the open office solution, and the grass isn’t necessarily greener:

“Many studies show that people have shorter and more superficial conversations in open offices because they’re self-conscious about being overheard,” said Anne-Laure Fayard, a professor of management at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University who has studied open offices. “Everyone is still experimenting with ways to balance the need for collaboration and the need for privacy.”

Office walls are coming down, and ear buds are being donned as a means to block out the extra noise and distraction.

John Hollon, an expert in all things HR, writes in response to the Times article, “When you plug a person who really needs a closed-door office into an open environment, do you know what you get? A person who is a lot less productive because they have been dropped into a space not particularly conductive to operating efficiently.”

So we know that square footage per employee is decreasing. Companies want to encourage collaboration across teams and departments. Hoteling stations for mobile workers are on the rise. As it becomes easier for interaction to occur in today’s office, fostering an environment of collaboration and flexibility, how can we as designers ensure that employees retain the “perks” afforded by the traditional office space, namely privacy and concentration?

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