I don’t want to get into rants about open offices or whether cubicles are better than offices with doors because you can easily find those all over the internet. I would like to brainstorm with you all to design a truly functional office. Basically open office spaces are good for active collaboration but bad for work that needs concentration, and closed offices are good for concentration but bad for collaboration.
Since many office workers, depending on role but I’d hazard a guess to say most office workers, need to collaborate sometimes and concentrate sometimes so we need a really innovative design that meets both needs. As best I can figure out the work style depends on timing of various things: job type, stage of project, time of day, day of week, season, probably other things.
I don’t have the solution yet, but so far I’m thinking that each worker should have a dedicated private workspace that’s quiet, and also ready access to an open collaboration space. Or people could be assigned seating in the collaboration space but be allowed to go work in the private offices as needed. Also, it would work better if distinct teams were kept mostly separate from each other by a fair amount of space or sound-proof walls; for example don’t put the noisy sales team next to the concentration-intensive analyst team.
One thing I’ve seen recently is for all workspaces to have the desks that will raise and lower so that you can work sitting or standing up at your choice.
Also I’ve seen a larger trend for more open cubicle spaces for more people, with more closed-off break-out rooms that can be reserved for various periods of time for meetings or for a quieter workspace as needed. In these work-spaces there are large flat screen TV’s suspended from the ceiling that are networked so that spreadsheets, presentations, etc. can be put up on screen to facilitate working together.
Hot desking is a dirty word now, it’s all about the activity based working.
My newish office space is actually pretty good. We have banks of desks in an open plan arrangement which is hot desking by another name, no bagsing. Then there are
some 6-8 seat meeting tables which just form part of the open plan design,
a few ‘normal’ meeting rooms for client appointments, and a larger room for training sessions, big meetings, etc
we have a few “jump in jump out” rooms which can’t be booked or reserved but are there for short impromptu confidential meetings/discussions
Then we have a small number of enclosed desks, located in ‘pods’. They remind me of photo booths,
I don’t really like the photo booths though, so if I need to concentrate I just pop my headphones in and play some music from my phone. (Obviously I don’t field a lot of phone calls , so that’s not an issue.)
Semi-open work spaces that allow for easy collaboration and keep everyone looped in to the office buzz.
Plenty of meeting speace, including readily available small rooms for phone calls and private one-on-ones.
A variety of spaces with different noise, privacy and formality levels. It’s nice to be able to have a conversation on a couch next to a window, or to spend a few hours working in a quiet room.
Meeting room technology that works, every time, and is the same from room to room.
I think one of the main problems that offices with open floor plans have is that they really break down when there isn’t enough meeting space. Another critical issue is when the meeting space reservation system isn’t well implemented, and rooms end up with lots of conflicts or people reserving rooms and then not using them.
Another possibility–used by Valve–is that every individual has their own personal desk, but it’s on wheels and set up to be easily plugged into a new location. If you need to collaborate for a few days, you just wheel on over to the group. If you need to concentrate on something, they have no-talking rooms where you can do that also.
I was thinking about this some more last night. Kind of where I was going was an annoyance that the office furniture makers like Steelcase continue to innovate in the wrong direction. Here’s a truly innovative idea, I wonder if someone has tried it:
With the idea that every office job has some combination of collaboration and concentration, why not make an office cubicle more like a dog kennel. Hear me out. There could be a 4x4 space with 6-foot walls on four sides with a closable door. Just outside the door is another 4x4 space with 3-foot walls on two sides with the fourth side wide open. Both spaces have a desk surface and hookups for a laptop and monitors/docking station. You can wheel your chair into the room and close the door for quiet work, or wheel your chair out to your “patio” for collaboration.
Obviously the sizes could be different depending on the company or worker needs. But my point with the suggested sizes is that the idea doesn’t need to use much more space than current cubicles do. Problem solved?
Tiny little closeable offices that open onto a larger space with collaboration areas. Maybe with a window that opens onto the larger space so you can be at your desk but interacting sometimes but closed off and quiet when you need to focus. Add smaller collaboration spaces with all the necessary tech that small groups can close themselves into to work together.
One of the problems with hot desking (or hotelling as it was called back in the dark ages when I started working in offices) is that people need a space to call home. It feels dehumanizing to many people to not have some space that is theirs.
The ratio of open to closed spaces and which ones are considered the “base spots” should depend on the nature of the work.
I’ve been in more open or shared offices than individual ones; the only time that sharing the big space was an issue was when we had people who needed to speak a lot (usually sales people or customer service). The noises from keyboards, computer mice and people walking by weren’t a problem. An occasional quiet conversation wasn’t a problem, and if people needed more than a quick exchange they moved someplace else. 1/3 of the people in the room talking on the phone, some of them to someone who should be wearing hearing aids or who is in a noisy place… yep, that is a problem.
But my job is of a nature that calls for a lot of collaboration; being able to shot a quick, low-voiced Q&A is nice; having a single printout of the Important Papers and being able to grab it from the pile without raising is nice. Right now my team is on individual offices and on one hand I don’t really feel comfortable enough with “my” space to put my music on speakers rather than headphones (since nobody else in the building has it on speakers - it’s headphones for everybody), but on the other those same Q&As require chasing down the people who refuse to open their IM program “to avoid interruptions” :rolleyes:.