The Failed Promise of an Open Office
The assumption that breaking walls / offices to create open space for everyone to communicate freely failed miserably. The factors range from frequent distractions (hardly cured by noise-cancellation headphones) to the spread of viruses to the quiet enjoyment of someone’s accidental flatulence.
And will someone please explain me how noise-cancelling headphones help collaboration?
A big assumption about open offices was that people could multitask (remember this keyword from job descriptions?) and to quickly getting back into the context after being distracted. Clearly, this assumption cost billions $$ to the economy.
Another sin is an attempt to hot-desk (i.e. when people have no designated desks, which are assigned on a first come-first served basis) – this, sadly, does nothing to build trust between employees and peers as seeing the same person at the same spot makes them part of the same team.
A slightly different version of hot-desking is ABW (activity-based working). Same thing, really, just people move between areas for different tasks (calls, team meetings, individual work).
Another issue with hot-desking is that it assumes either the BYOD (bring your own device aka laptop) or using standardized company-provided equipment. Many people have their own setups (monitors, desktops), which they can use only at their workspace.
Welcome to 2020
Most of us now work from home, and most companies have already realized that the 100% WFH arrangement is detrimental to their business due to the lack of communication and idea generation. While some companies announced that they’re going 100% WFH, some rebels (Netflix) can’t wait to get employees back to the office when it’s safe to do so (6 months after the vaccine is available, for instance).
But how will the workspace will look post-pandemic?
A Post-Pandemic Workspace (aka a Dynamic Workspace)
Let’s accept the fact: less people will be present at a workplace at any given time. There’s no need to have people sit at their desks for 8 hours 5 days a week: a lot of this work can be done from home.
Team meetings, however, can and should be held in person in designated areas, with little distraction and high involvement of everyone present. That’s what many people may need to commute to the office for.
Some people are more productive when away from home; they are free to use Starbucks close to home or to take one of the specially designated desks / seats in the office with or without distractions from others. For such people the concept of “micro-offices” (small offices spread around the city for faster commute) may work quite well.
Our example: Aviasales has 3 major offices (Phuket, Moscow, St Petersburg) and will make them available for staff to work from whenever people need to travel.
One thing worth mentioning: this so-called “dynamic workspace” in many respects is nothing new: in many startups people work from home 4 days a week and meet in person 1 day a week in a shared office or a coworking space.