Where are you sitting at this very moment? Coffee shop? DePaul Campus Library? In each of these spaces, you may easily find yourself within earshot of another person or several people while you frantically piece together your management blog comment.
Proxemics is the study of space,how people react within this provided amount of space and between one another. Workplace environments and the conditions in which people are brought together have been discussed over decades of time. One condition in particular is workstation layouts. There are slews of opinions and research to support best practices, each claiming to benefit the worker bee and its queen more effectively.
Regardless of which side of the line you stand on with this issue, one thing is for sure; there are effects on employees, the management and in turn, operations of the business. How these effects are interpreted is the main issue of concern here.
I remember working in an office a couple of years ago, where the cubicles dividing each of us were placed in the center of the room. Surrounding these workstations were closed-door offices which were occupied with management, directors, accountants, and others whose positions were considered with a greater degree of importance. Those of us that were in these cubicles always “joked” about how the rest of the company should spend some time in our shoes, until the day that discussions on office renovations began. Talks of gutting the space into an open-space plan was considered advantageous. This included sacrificing both our thin-walled cubicles, along with those highly coveted offices. This is the only time that I can remember where each and every person united to aggressively voice their disapproval of this development. We won. Afterwards, a cubicle seemed to be more valuable than a parking space.
In a recent article posted on management-issues.com, IPSOS conducted “a survey of 10,000 workers across 14 countries by market researchers IPSOS has found that that 85 per cent are dissatisfied with their working environment and cannot concentrate.” Noisy colleagues, clacking of dozens of keyboards and the buzzing of voices – all busy with the hustle and bustle of their responsibilities.
Further more, the same study reported that “almost seven out of 10 worked in open spaces or in a combination of individual and open space offices and on average, 86 minutes per person per day are lost to distractions.” This means that more than 20% of the working day is wasted.
Taking a look at these statistics, along with the growing number of similar reports, one can only wonder if the day of the open-plan workplace should come to an end – returning in its place, a sense of privacy where people can focus, create and progress with their company.
Tell me your thoughts:
Is having an open-space styled work environment truly cost-beneficial for companies?
Are these affected employees staying as productive as possible or are the distractions becoming too much?
How much privacy is enough?