The Office Design that Promotes Productivity, Collaboration, and Cost Savings

Much has been said about the open office floor plan.  The concept arose out of Silicon Valley and became a popular way to supposedly create “collaborative” work environments where innovation happens.  Oh, and as an added bonus, companies saved a lot of money designing office spaces as open.  I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg- the realization that money could be saved this way, or that “collaboration” and therefore innovation would thrive in this type of design.  

But in many studies, including this one: The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration, it was found that “Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (approx.70%)” in examining two different corporate headquarters transitioning to more open office spaces. The electronic interaction increased, leading to what would be contrary to what you would think would happen. People in this type of environment socially withdrew from co-workers instead of increasing their interaction.

In addition, the lost productivity of open office spaces has been cited empirically to reduce productivity. “An Exeter University study showed they actually create a 32% drop in “workers well-being” and a 15% reduction in productivity.” The loss of productivity eliminates any financial gain that decreased square footage provides in an open office design.

So, what do you do? Ditch the open office? And in favor of what? Back to the cubicle farm?  The answer would be “no”.  As a recent Inc. Magazine article suggests,  working from home is one good option.  It enhances the cost savings for companies even more. In addition, the article also cites how work from home arrangements make people more productive and happier.

We have no office at Horizon Point. We work from home and at client sites and at the local coffee shop- on our own as well as in group meetings. As we grow, I’ve considered the need to rent or purchase office space. The last time I mentioned it to my team, one person looked at me like if you make me come into an office and do all my work from there and I will quit. And when I think about it, I might quit too. 

The truth of the matter is asking, where does the best work gets done? And the answer isn’t any one type of office arrangement. Different environments breed different results depending on the work or task at hand.

As cited in the February cover story of FastCompany, “’People have different needs throughout their day and throughout their life. They might need to focus at a certain point and talk to someone at another point.’”

With this reality at hand, it makes sense that the best office space is not one at all, but many. And the key is for leaders to manage in a way that gives employees the empowerment to match the type of work they need to accomplish with the environment that best suits it.

Tomorrow my office will be at the gym where I will read a business book while I’m running on the treadmill. The one I’m currently reading relates to a new presentation I’m working on about how to implement a values-based culture. Next, it will be in my car as I return a few calls after dropping my kids off at school. Then, on to the local coffee shop where I can have some background noise but a limited distraction to revise training content for a client and create verbiage for collateral pieces for our new business. Then, I’m on to a client site for lunch and a meeting in order to finalize some training content we will use with their team in the next week or two.

Obviously, there is some work that doesn’t allow us to choose where we do it. If you are running a multi-million-dollar press making parts for a car, let’s say, it’s not likely you can do that from your own car or the café (yet).  

However, when we don’t assume one trend or style fits all, we begin to mold a better office environment and work culture where people can do their best work.

Where will you be getting your best work done today?

Mary Ila Ward

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