More and more we’re seeing the modern workplace make the shift from a traditional, individualized office space design to something more open-concept and collaborative. Take a moment to Google a few innovative or up-and-coming companies in the communication or technology spheres. It’s very likely that one or more of these companies will offer a virtual tour of their office space for potential candidates, using words like “fun”, “Innovative”, and “collaborative” to describe the working environment.
This shift is not something that has occurred purely based on esthetic preferences. It indicates an overall shift in the general perception on how workplaces should function and how employees should interact with each other. A lot of this has stemmed from the introduction of a new generation into the workforce – a socially-minded generation seeking innovation and collaboration. The Millennials.
This generation, which includes births from 1982-2000, brings a new set of perspectives and attitudes into the workforce – and also a number of challenges for the HR Professional. How do you create a successful employee engagement strategy when dealing with a diverse, multi-generational workforce with different needs? The answer to this question, and others, will be discussed more in depth in part two of this blog.
All in the name of collaboration?
In a recent survey entitled Workplace of the Future, an incredible 77 percent of respondents indicated that they are employing, or plan to employ, an open workspace with fewer (or no) enclosed offices. What has caused this sudden move to open workspaces? One of the leading factors behind this push is the idea that it encourages collaboration between co-workers and across departments within the organization.
However, as popular as this idea is, it is far from a “one size fits all” solution and there has definitely been a fair amount of debate on the topic in recent months. The next section of this blog will take a look some of the pros and cons to this type of office design and how it impacts employee engagement, productivity, and overall satisfaction.
"It forces workers to talk to each other and triggers fruitful and surprising collaborations that wouldn't have happened with everyone hunkered down inside their own four walls.”
So, by this point, you’re probably quite convinced that open offices are the way to go. I mean, who wouldn’t want a more collaborative, innovative, and creative working environment? Especially with the socially-minded multi-tasking Millennials making their way into the workforce. However, a growing body of evidence is suggesting that this philosophy is flawed. In fact, claims are being made that the open office actually undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve in the first place (Source: The New Yorker). Here are some of the cons of having this office space arrangement:
“Not only is the focus mode not functioning optimally in most office environments, we found statistical evidence that the effectiveness of collaboration, learning, and socializing suffers if the ability to focus is diminished.” (Source: Daily Mail)
Despite the number of statistically-backed cons to this type of office arrangement, in the end it really comes down to the individual type of work your company is doing and the optimal workplace design needed to get that work done most effectively. In most cases, fully open workspaces do not recognize different working styles among their employees. A recent article from Forbes suggests that the solution to this is some kind of hybrid between collaboration and privacy: “There’s a time when you need to share information and collaborate, and there’s a time when you need to go away and do some deep thinking.” Workers need an environment that is conducive to both of these needs. An optimal workspace would still provide workers with an opportunity to focus on collaboration through an open design, but also balance that openness with spaces that help workers to focus (Source: Smart Planet).
Do you work in an open-concept office space? We want to hear from you! What has your experience been working in that type of office environment? Do you find the space conducive to collaboration and innovation, or is it more of a distraction? Post your ideas in the comments section below.
Clear Path Employer Services is an HR consulting firm based in Cambridge that specializes in disability management. Come to us with all of your HR needs: Employee terminations, hiring and creating employment contracts, performance management issues, establishing employee policies, and complying with relevant HR legislation. Contact us today!
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