Science is used in several ways to make our lives better, and the beauty of it is that it can be applied to ascertain certain phenomena and occurrences. The same science is utilized to illustrate how employees loathe open plan offices for various, legitimate reasons, including noise pollution, decreased privacy, constant distraction from small talk, to name a few.
A little housekeeping; an open plan office comprises of system furniture in an open, hall-like are and while some workers do not like its implementation, it is used in companies that want to promote employee communication and interaction, flexibility and ability to house more employees. Whether the benefits are impactful when compared to setbacks is subjective according to managers/tech executives who choose different approaches for their startups.
First, it is perceived that managing people is not challenging because you can always grab a how-to-manage-human-beings book and be well-versed with it in like a week? Right? From a practical point of view, it is not because managing workers is tough because an executive need to understand what makes his crew happy, the patience to deal with unforeseen setbacks and the ability to make tough decisions. It is here that the misconception of an open office sounds viable because leading people in a collaborative environment is easy.
Managers can make a name for themselves in an open-office environment because they can impress visitors as the setup offers an iconic photogenic perception of busy employees. This is something that cannot be seen in cubicles or personal offices. As a marketing strategy to let the world know of their futuristic work, tech companies hire camera crews to showcase their office plans. If you keenly watch this video by Google, you will see some employees shielding their work with stacks of books to get some privacy.
Next is the issue about denial. As stated above, science substantiates these concerns from fiction but in some cases, it is ignored. That habit of ignoring facts does not make it easy for managers to accept failure of a particular governance system – like rethinking the open plan concept because it is a productivity disaster. For example, IBM had to cancel its ‘work from home’ policy for a ‘small, self-directed and agile teams’ – yet the company was not losing money owing to its profitable stint from 1994.
Fuze has scientifically looked into the matter with some interesting findings. One of them is that 83 per cent of workers do not need to go to the office to be productive, and 38 per cent said they would happier if they were allowed to work from home. Another pointer from the investigation is that physical space will reduce because companies are working toward collaborative office space that encourage gainful interactions. In the same light of thought, it is probable that traditional desks will be a thing of the past in the coming days because startups will adopt an environment that meets their needs – be it a coffee table, standing or a collaborative space. Lastly, Fuze’s investigation concludes that office hours, say 8-5 will be phased out because work will be more of a 24/7 thing. In fact, Millennials are ready to take a pay cut as long as the work environment is flexible according to this survey.
There are a lot of startups that are successful without an open office platform.
This is a code collaboration open-source platform that creates, reviews and deploys code. Because it has people from different nations, a remote setup favours its workforce, which has grown into a culture.
“We can hire better people. We believe in having happier team members by improving their lives. They can work from anywhere and spend more time with their loved ones. They are more productive and efficient that way,” says this Q&A.
“We can find talent anywhere and invite them to join our team. They can do the things that they love the most, arranging their schedules to fit their needs. People are happier because they get to spend more time with their families and don’t have to spend time commuting to work.”
Founded in 2005, Automattic is behind wordpress.com, a popular publishing and blogging platform.
“It allows us to find talent wherever they live, and this can open a company up to a lot of possibilities. As most technology companies know, finding and hiring talent is one of the biggest problems they face. It also allows for a truly flexible work environment. We don’t have set office hours because we have people working in all time zones. People can work the hours that work best for them,” states Automattic.
Similar to Automattic and GitLab, Chargify is a 100% remote startup that offers billing software for collecting recurring revenues.
“Chargify has been a remote team since day one. From inception, we wanted to be able to work with the best and the brightest, regardless of their physical location. Finding ideal candidates that are not only qualified, but are a good culture fit is easier when not bound by location. Plus, being a 100% distributed team means we don’t have all the overhead costs related to an office space which allows us to be more efficient,” says Chargify.
Several other companies such as Amazon, GitHub, Salesforce and Adobe, among many others, do hire workers who can work from home in different fields.
It is difficult to dispute data that that can be collaborated with scientific fact. Pertaining this matter, yes, open offices hurt productivity up to 32 percent according to this study. Some get miserable based on such an environment, in addition to taking more sick days than those working from home or in closed offices.