Where do you work? A better question may be, where do you work best? What boosts your productivity and what kills it? Are you and your employees completely satisfied with the physical environment of your current workspace? For most people, the answer is no. There might be a chatty co-worker that sits right next door. Your cubicle might be too small, making you feel claustrophobic. Or maybe, you are easily distracted in an open office space. Workspace can shape productivity, job satisfaction, and even company culture. This makes it an important issue for employees and employers alike. Today, I’d like to address how our workplace is evolving. What would the future of workspace look like?
The trend in workspace design is clear: open floor plan. Over the course of the last couple of decades, numerous companies have shifted their office plans to reflect the popular design. The transition from cellular (just think cubicle) offices to open floor plan offices have been welcomed by companies that were happy to cut down the costs of floor space. Some additional benefits of open floor plan offices include more flexibility and movement, encouragement of communication between and within teams, and an increase in interactions between employees.1
Despite the popularity of open floor plan offices, there might be hidden costs affecting employee productivity and happiness. One big cost of having an open floor plan may be over-stimulation of employees within a workspace.1 Because of open space, noise or visual stimulation can travel more easily, creating distractions from work and increasing stress. Lack of privacy can prove to be especially detrimental for the productivity of introverted individuals, who crave more alone time and may feel that their energy is decreased due to constant interactions.1
In addition, other factors, like age, may affect your perception and productivity at a certain type of workspace. For example, research on Gen Y “millennials” indicates their perceptions of open floor plan offices are different compared to baby boomers or Gen X.2 Individuals from generation Y not only viewed the open floor plan offices more positively, but were also more accepting of the negative factors, viewing them as trade-offs. Millennials are used to multitasking, and are more likely to prioritize socializing and ease of communication. This makes them a better fit for open floor plan offices than their older generations. As more and more millennials enter the work force, catering to their needs and wants will be prove to be increasingly important.
Since September of last year, I’ve been utilizing a new type of workspace called Mod in Phoenix, Arizona. Mod offers a novel workspace model known as collaborative (or coworking) space. Coworking space is a new form of open plan office where physical space is provided for workers that are usually not affiliated with one another.3 Coworking space is designed to meet the mobile professionals’ need for a place to work, away from the distractions of coffee shops and homes but still with networking and socializing opportunities. It is inexpensive compared to leasing offices, connected enough for people to bounce ideas off of each other, and can provide a platform for cooperation and collaboration.3 Especially with the increase of remote working and freelancing, coworking spaces can prove to be a convenient alternative to the traditional workspace.
The key to finding the best workspace possible for yourself and your employees comes down to flexibility and tailoring to the individual. After all, you are the person who knows best where you can work most productively. I strongly believe that if employees are given the choice between a cellular, enclosed office and a more shared, open office, they will be able to cater to their own needs and find what works best for them. This can be directly correlated with increased productivity of each individual, leading to overall company/organization productivity, as well as employee happiness. Physical workspace is evolving fast. I am excited to see where the future of workspace takes us!
1. Davis, M. Leach, D., and Clegg, C. (2011). The “The Physical Environment of the Office: Contemporary and Emerging Issues.” International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 26(1), 193-237.
2. Rasila, H., and Rothe, P. (2012). A Problem is a Problem is a Benefit? Generation Y Perceptions of Open-plan Offices.” Property Management. 30(4), 362-375.
3. Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Working Alone Together Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 26(4), 399-441.