58% of high-performance employees say they need more quiet work spaces.
Our open industrial spaces are frustrating our best people and likely impacting our end products.
I mean, this would be obvious to anyone who had read The Mythical Man-Month and considered the consequences of some of that book’s observations. But apparently we’re too smart to make such observations…
The question is, who decided that “open workspaces” were a good idea and what kind of information suggested they would improve productivity.
I have never liked working in a cube farm with high or low walls or on long tables with others. It’s too easy to be distracted and hard to concentrate on complex problems. On the other hand, I have no trouble with interruptions to help someone else and have a reputation for setting aside what I am doing at the moment somebody knocks or comes by to request assistance—unless I’m working on an emergency. If it’s the wrong time to be interrupted, I request another time to meet or suggest someone else that might be able to help.
Open workspaces can bring value if people are actively working in a group and in constant interaction, but most of the time that is not the case. I strongly suspect that cubes and other open designs were chosen by many companies because they are comparatively easy to set up and cheaper than constructing private spaces for individuals to work.
Information workers are a special breed and need quiet spaces to think and work on problems requiring concentration. I’d suggest that businesses that employ them provide the reasonable accommodation of quiet spaces work.