The Open Office Concept: Is It Always The Solution?
Recent studies show that face-to-face interactions drop 70% when firms transition to open offices, while electronic interactions like email, Skype, and Teams increase. Research suggests that the reason for increased isolation is due to the familiarity of what some call “public solitude,” and colleagues come to observe and respect those behaviors within an open office space.
Separate findings show that team members’ location has a big impact on both their physical and digital interactions. In general, the further apart people are, the less they communicate.
The open office concept is the solution for a lot of companies, but it’s not the solution for all. And if it is your company’s solution, how you make your office space more open can make all the difference. Leaders of companies are missing the strategic aspect of workplace design, jumping the gun without conducting real experiments to see how their employees interact and behave throughout a typical workday.
Technology has made it possible to measure and observe the anatomy of collaboration within a workplace. Companies are using sensors to detect how long workers are at their desks, how often they move around, and where they go. Companies are also analyzing digital communication metadata people leave behind when doing things like sending emails, opening an email browser window, posting on Slack or Teams, and making a call. Employers can use advanced analytics tools to study the data and understand shared behaviors and patterns among employees.
Most decision makers believe they should let their employees choose an atmosphere that best meets their individual needs. However, in this case offices are not supporting the overall team or the collection of teams that need to work together. Leaders need to take on the responsibility of deciding what collective behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.
Overall, every company and team’s interactions are different. In order to discover which workplace design is best for your organization, experimentation is key in understanding employee behavior and the dynamics at play. Companies should take a strategic approach to workplace design, producing solutions that cater to the company’s culture, and the functionality of certain tasks and roles.
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