One of the current dilemmas is committing to open offices or cubicles to ensure the individuality of the worker. Some argue that being around people impedes some tasks require concentration, while others stress the need to pool certain issues to bring about a successful idea.
According to a survey by Gensler in 2013, more than two-thirds of US employees say that they are not satisfied with the noise levels at their place of work. Moreover, 53% said that the presence of others bothered them when they had to concentrate. It is also estimated that productivity has fallen by 6% over the last five years due to lack of concentration.
To combat this problem many companies opt for the implementation of cubicles, as the innovation team for information technologies at Microsoft. They have stated that they do not see doors as barriers to communication with their peers but as barriers to noise.
Therefore, they have devised the concept “knowledge corridor”, which consists of using the hallway that divides the floor in cubicles as a meeting point among workmates.
“It was important to concentrate behind closed doors, but it was also important to stay in close proximity with each other, so that we could collaborate,” says Pankaj Arora, head of Microsoft IT Innovation Group. When they have to collaborate they only have to open the doors of their small offices, turn the chair and head into the hallway.
But since redesigning open offices to transform them into small individual offices is very expensive, some companies have chosen to create spaces reserved for concentrating and thinking. Some employers have begun to include these rooms in their offices, which are used to reflect, work without distractions or make a call without the noise and attention of colleagues.
Steelcase is a company that sells “quiet spaces” for those seeking refuge from phones and workmates talking. These rooms also help workers that are introverted, representing more than half of the workforce, to carry out actions that make them uncomfortable in front of their peers.
Design experts recommend having some rooms available under reservation and others for those who need them immediately.
Microsoft uses a strategy with an interesting layout: workers are divided by neighbourhoods. They are away from other people to avoid the hubbub with the idea being that they are for teams working on the same idea. This way they can interact easily without receiving annoying input from those who are not working on the project.
At the other extreme there are the so-called “workspaces without direction” where employees do not even have a fixed place assigned. At first there was reluctance to implement these systems, however, it has been shown that, despite the noise generated, they foster collaboration among peers. Socialization is guaranteed.
Of course everyone has their favourite option depending on their needs and their preferences. Research conducted by the University of Finland says that people born in the 1980s and 1990s tolerated noise and overcrowding in offices much better, while those born in 1950 valued privacy much more to be productive.
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