If you’ve worked in an American office in the past 10 to 15 years, you may have noticed a change in its configuration (how things are arranged, including furniture and equipment). In recent years, large office spaces have been built to foster or encourage collaboration, working closely and productively with coworkers.
This has meant fewer traditional cubicles (workspaces with a desk and chair and high walls on three sides, without touching the ceiling). Instead, modern offices tend to have lower cubicle walls or open plans, where people sit close to their coworkers, sometimes facing each other and sometimes sharing one large desk area. The idea is that coworkers would get to know each other better, share ideas more often, and ultimately (in the end; as a result) produce better and more creative work. Not surprisingly, this type of office space also takes up (uses) less room (space) and companies can fit more employees into a given office space.
A recent study reported in the Wall Street Journal, however, says that open plan office spaces may not be helping workers get more work done. Open plan offices tend to be more distracting (for one’s attention to not remain on one thing) and workers find it hard to focus, taking more time to complete their work. The authors of the study say that the best type of office spaces tend to be ones that have a combination of spaces where people can work alone and places where people can work with others, so that they can choose where they want to work at different parts of the day.
I have never worked in an office that had an open plan. When I worked in an office early in my career, I always worked in a traditional cubicle or shared an office with one or two other people. Even with just one or two people working close by, I found it distracting hearing them on the phone or talking to a coworker. I can’t imagine working in a large space with a lot of other people.
Now, working on the podcast, I work in my own office and I can shut the doors when there is too much noise. Occasionally, I’ll go to a cafe to work, but I can seldom write in that environment unless I have headphones (earphones) in to block out ambient noise (noises around me). Even so, I prefer silence when I write or edit. I don’t think I have very good powers of concentration (ability to focus well when there is noise or activity around).
If you work in an office, what kind of workspace do you have? What is your preferred work environment? Do you like working in an open plan workspace or do you like a more self-contained (independent) space?
Photo Credit: OpenPlanRedBalloon1 from Wikipedia