Recent studies in workspace layout and design are calling into question some of the conventional wisdom that we have been embracing over the past few years. Foremost among these is the idea that an open floor workspace engenders creativity and productivity, when this may actually not be the case.
In fact, a study published in March of 2013 is saying quite the opposite. An article published by the BBC traces the development of the open floor plan workspace to Germany in the 1960s and even goes so far as to suggest that – in those days – open floor plans were actually a direct reaction against Nazism. The article states that the open floor plan was in conflict with the top-down nature of fascism, complete with its closed-off and secretive spaces. An open floor plan brought everything out into the open, encouraged collaboration and diffused opportunities for secrecy and conspiracy.
However, the New York Times found that some 50 per cent of employees are dissatisfied with the open floor plan. Open plans make it difficult to have a discreet conversation, and everything that you say can be heard by just about everyone else in the workspace who cares to listen. People don’t like the acoustics, and the figures suggest that their creativity is actually stifled by the open floor plan.
The following are a few bits of information that the recent study uncovered:
• The conversations that people have in open floor plan workspaces are likely to be more superficial and shorter than they would otherwise be.
• Interruptions are more common in an open floor plan and they have a significant effect on the quality and efficiency of work completed on site.
• The emphasis on e-mails over telephone calls, reduction in noise of ventilation systems and elimination of typewriters has created an extremely quiet office environment in which anything you say can easily be overheard by others.
• The speech of others is one of the most disturbing and distracting types of sounds for workplace employees because it directly interfaces with the brain.
With these points in mind, it becomes clear that there are more than a few detriments to the open plan. In fact, many experts are suggesting that we may be better off returning to the cubicle or office layout in which at least a modicum of privacy is available to employees. That being said, there is no catchall solution here. The most important thing that you can do in setting up your office design is to make sure that you understand your workforce, its needs and the type of work that it completes. With these facts firmly in mind, you’ll be able to craft a space that is well suited to their needs.
The Rise of Hot Desking
There are other new trends on the rise in workspace layout and fit-out. One of these has to do with reducing the amount of physical space that is dedicated to desk space. Many employees are starting to spend more time working from home than they did even a few years ago, thanks in large part to the rise of home technology. Physically being in the office is no longer really a requirement – at least not from a logistical standpoint.
This is where the concept of hot desking comes into play. Hot desking is essentially the sharing of workspace between multiple employees. These days, it is not nearly as important as it used to be that employees have their own dedicated work space. Most IT departments are content to let employees work on their own equipment (i.e. a laptop they brought from home), which means they can set up shop at virtually any desk they sit down at.
With that in mind, it is no longer as important that they have their own space. In response, the company has to give consideration to how many employees will be in on a given day, and provide enough workspaces to accommodate only those people. This makes it possible to cut corners and save money on workspace without having to severely limit your workspace. At the same time, employees enjoy more freedom in establishing a workday. It’s a win-win on both sides.