The sound of keyboards typing away, low-key mumbles,bursts of laughter and shouts of breakthrough ideas melts together with the smell of coffee. In this apparent chaos one finds bliss. Or lose your sanity…
Open-office design seems to be the latest trend in most modern companies. For a lot of people the idea might seem strange and not practical. What about concentration and productivity?
A study done by www.brainscape.com (a web and mobile education platform) found that background noise, such as the chatter in a coffee shop or background music can spark creativity and help you filter out important information. This piece of information is good news, especially for companies depending on the creative juices flowing from their employees’ brains.
If you enjoy the music and the people you are surrounded by, your confidence also gets a boost, which means you perform better. This not only benefits the individual, but helps in growing the success of the organisation in the long run.
With the whole team being in one room, regular communication is non-negotiable. Team members are able to ask questions, share knowledge and solve problems hassle-free. Communication is one of the biggest factors determining the success of a project. And a whole lot of companies struggle with this one key factor. When all the people on a project are in the same room, unanswered emails, ignored IM’s and dropped Skype calls will be no excuse for not being kept in the loop.Untitled design
With communication being one of the primary keys to teamwork success, you’re one step closer to building quality products. If we look at other aspects of teamwork we see that feedback from management also plays a big part. With everybody in the same room, managers and project leaders will be able to easily give feedback on decisions and outcomes. This is advantageous to both managers and other employees. It will also make receiving criticism easier for team members, as they won’t feel inferior to managers and project leaders.
In many ways an open office will create a more relaxed company culture. It takes off the corporate edge and gives a more homey feeling to the workplace.
Some people fret that an open office environment will make employees nervous and give them anxiety because of the lack of privacy. People are more likely to get anxiety when they feel like they’re being watched.
I was at a social gathering the other night when I raised the topic about open-office space.
The group of people were a diverse group of individuals. They ranged from a graphic designer to people in sales, marketing, admin and distribution. The administrator that was there spoke out against open office space. She stated that fellow employees did not respect her and kept on interrupting her at the worst times imaginable. She also felt that fellow colleagues were more judgmental and critical towards each other when they didn’t have the same work ethics or ways of doing things. Background noise and messy co-workers were also a major issue.
The guy working in sales was against open office space, not because of distractions or noise, but because of privacy regarding leads. According to him it would lead to total disaster if the sales team had access to each others leads, current client base and were able to overhear sales calls.
On the other hand, the graphic designer complained because she used to work in an open office environment but the company she worked for decided to go back to cubicles and private offices. She felt isolated and frustrated because she had to get up to ask other people’s input on her work. Her opinion was that her manager decided to fix something which wasn’t broken. Leading to lower quality in design outcomes. She even felt left out and not part of the team anymore.
I also had an interesting conversation with a software developer. His opinion was that both open-office and private office space can work. It all depends on which process your company use to get things done. In software we have two main approaches when tackling a new project.
The first one is Waterfall. This means that every member of the team completes a task, which then results in a final product. Ie: We do the planning,then design the product, implement the methodologies, verify the product and then switch over to maintenance. The whole process is indeed as fluent as a waterfall. For this approach private offices are ideal. Each individual needs to do their bit before handing the project over to the next individual to do their part.
When we decide to take the Kanban route, things change a bit. Kanban is a very hands on approach, which requires regular input, testing and brainstorming. It results in continual delivery and outcomes. Many tech companies choose to use this approach because it results in better end-products. Because of the continuous input required by this open office space is almost a must.
Open-office not only works great for the team but also saves the company money. More people can fit into an open space than in private offices, which will result in lower office expenses. Managers are also able to more easily keep tabs on employees and monitor productivity.
Open-office space sparks creativity, teamwork and fun. It makes coming to work great, knowing you will not be left alone in a cold grey cubicle with only your pot-plant to talk to.
But then again… If you can’t stand Ned’s constant sneezing and Jenny’s stories about her cat, an open office may not be what you’re looking for.
I came to the conclusion that what may work for one company may not work for the other. Overall I think open-office space has got more pro’s than con’s and are definitely worth trying.

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