Open office workspaces
are popular and from a design perspective, aesthetically pleasing and attractive. But, they are also distracting. That’s not really surprising, though. Putting dozens of workers in a big room and asking them to stay focused and be productive is challenging, even on the best days.
Sure, open office spaces are great for collaboration, something that Marissa Mayer
wants to see happen more frequently at Yahoo, but outside of those moments of creative collaborative genius, the open office plan isn’t good for business.
Global architecture firm Gensler surveyed more than 2,000 workers in the United States as part of its 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey
(WPS) and discovered that only one in four Americans work in an optimal workplace environment and the open office workspace, which is designed to boost collaboration, may actually be hindering it instead.
According to the survey, "the inability to focus for many is the key driver of workplace ineffectiveness. Results show that a lack of effective focus space drags down the effectiveness of all other work modes: collaboration, learning and socializing, as well as the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole."
Collaboration, on a whole, is decreasing according to the survey and focus is becoming more important. Focus is directly tied to satisfaction; 31 percent of respondents said when they are more focused they are more satisfied and 14 percent are more productive because they are more focused.
Both collaboration and focus are needed, though, and so businesses must determine how to provide both work models to employees.
“Our survey findings demonstrate that focus and collaboration are complementary work modes. One cannot be sacrificed in the workplace without directly impacting the other,” says Diane Hoskins, co-Chief Executive Officer at Gensler. “We know that both focus and collaboration are crucial to the success of any organization in today’s economy.”
So, how do you create a workplace that allows for both spontaneous collaboration as well as focus? That’s the $1 million question, in my opinion. An open office workspace can have quiet rooms where employees can go to focus, but what if the employee needs tools that are on her desk? Alternately, a main office space designed for focus with separate collaborative spaces takes out the spontaneous part of the collaboration equation.
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