This could just be a rant about open offices (Yes, I hate them), but I actually found real data to explain my point a bit better. The New Yorker points out that the Open Office is not used for what it was designed to function in the beginning. The Open Office has its origin in Hamburg, conceived by an architecture team to increase communication and idea flow in the 1950s. Unfortunately, nowadays it is creating more down than upside resulting in the end to a decrease of productivity.
This week I am experimenting with working from home. Sure, I am cutting down on noise and distraction but can I be just as creative and productive? There are a lot of startups and other companies, who have been using this model for a long time (Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer put an end to the working from home possibility some time ago) and most are dependent upon this to be able to have international and professional teams.
A group of psychologists from the Canadian University of Calgary were monitoring workers changing from a traditional office to an open space and according to their research the workers suffered: “the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell.”
I can truly relate to this! I love being around the team, we have common jokes and little games we play that really unites us but whenever somebody walks in or even changes his/her sitting position at the desk, I loose my concentration. I am disrupted in my train of thought and it takes me time to get focussed again. A lot of the colleagues at the office use headphones blasting music as they but I just can’t get myself to focus. When I put on headphones it’s usually without music. I need no noise to work well. Other than movements and noise that disrupt the work, I think some people might feel observed and controlled. In an open office everybody sees not only your working hours, but also your screen and every move.
A couple of years after the first study, psychologist Matthew Davis read through several hundred studies about our work environment in offices. Just like me he found that open spaces add to a company culture, creating a group and making workers feel part of the organisation’s mission. Open offices symbolise a relaxed, innovative company culture. It’s not a surprise that most of the startups we know are working in open areas?
Matthew Davis also came to the conclusion that there are more negative than positive outcomes. According to his research, Open Offices “were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction“. Employees were stressed more easily and had “lower levels of concentration and motivation”.
The Nextweb shows us a few examples: What do you think? Awesome Open Offices for everyone or back to the traditional model for more concentration, increased productivity, less stress but also less team and company cohesion?