Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices

Piling On

I’m adding to my narrative two weeks ago (click here to read) on the effects of open office plans.  Today is not about the science but rather the complaining and emotional impact on employees after moving to open office space.  I’m not taking a side, rather just piling on more information from two weeks ago. 
 
Workers are simply not as happy in open spaces. They are 15% less productive (depending on the type of work), more likely to get sick, and more.  This is interesting. Some people want open collaborative space and others beg for an office where they can “get my work done”.  This is exacerbated by the fact that your best team players are probably getting recruited by other companies who might be offering them an alternative. 
 
The workforce is in a major shift in demographics and what do new workers (millennials and Gen X) really want?  Who knows anymore?   Based on our experience completing 125 leases every year, I can say with conviction that—it depends. Here are a few of the questions we ask our clients as we begin the process and to set direction:
 
1—How do you and specifically your teams work?  What type of work is being done and what is the need for interaction?
2—Who is your best cohort you hire?  Where do you get them from and why?  What is your turnover rate and why?
3—What happens in a recession? (During recessions, businesses fight to stay in business and cutting costs becomes more urgent.)
4—What do you have now?  What works and what doesn’t? 
 
I won’t continue to harp on this topic.  I just thought I would spend a couple narratives looking at open office from a different perspective. Has the pendulum swung too far to open offices with over 70% of all offices now open?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know.  

 

Craig

602.954.3762


Why open offices are bad for us
By Bryan Borzykowski

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

open office space

Four years ago, Chris Nagele did what many other technology executives have done before — he moved his team into an open concept office.

His staff had been exclusively working from home, but he wanted everyone to be together, to bond and collaborate more easily. It quickly became clear, though, that Nagele had made a huge mistake. Everyone was distracted, productivity suffered and the nine employees were unhappy, not to mention Nagele himself.

In April 2015, about three years after moving into the open office, Nagele moved the company into a 10,000-square foot office where everyone now has their own space — complete with closing doors.

We’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces

Numerous companies have embraced the open office — about 70% of US offices are open concept — and by most accounts, very few have moved back into traditional spaces with offices and doors. But research that we’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces, has contributed to a growing backlash against open offices.

Since moving, Nagele himself has heard from others in technology who say they long for the closed office lifestyle. “Many people agree — they can’t stand the open office,” he says. “They never get anything done and have to do more work at home.”

Small distractions can cause us to lose focus for upwards of 20 minutes

It’s unlikely that the open office concept will go away anytime soon, but some companies are following Nagele’s example and making a return to private spaces.

The more focus the better
There’s one big reason we’d all love a space with four walls and a door that shuts: focus. The truth is, we can’t multitask and small distractions can cause us to lose focus for upwards of 20 minutes.

What’s more, certain open spaces can negatively impact our memory. This is especially true for hotdesking, an extreme version of open plan working where people sit wherever they want in the work place, moving their equipment around with them.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot, says Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist in La Grange Park, Illinois. It’s not so obvious to us each day, but we offload memories — often little details — into our surroundings, she says.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot

These details — which could be anything from a quick idea we wanted to share to a colour change on a brochure we’re working on — can only be recalled in that setting.

We don’t collaborate like we think
For many of us, it’s the noise that disturbs us the most. Professors at the University of Sydney found that nearly 50% of people with a completely open office floorplan, and nearly 60% of people in cubicles with low walls, are dissatisfied with their sound privacy. Only 16% of people in private offices said the same.

They asked people in various office types how dissatisfied they were with their space  and in 14 different respects, including temperature, air quality and sound privacy, closed fared better than open.

People do talk to each other more, but they don’t talk to each other more about work-related things

Beside the cheaper cost, one main argument for the open workspace is that it increases collaboration. However, it’s well documented that we rarely brainstorm brilliant ideas when we’re just shooting the breeze in a crowd. Instead, as many of us know, we’re more likely to hear about the Christmas gift a colleague is buying for a family member, or problems with your deskmate’s spouse.

People do talk to each other more, but they don’t talk to each other more about work-related things,” says Augustin. Think about it: if you work in an open office, you’ll book a meeting room to brainstorm. It’s still an act that requires some level of planning and privacy.

And it turns out our best work is done when we have total focus, says Augustin. We can work in a busy space, but the final product won’t be as good as if we are in a quiet locale.

It’s a shame to waste people by not giving them a place that supports what they actually do

“[It’s] inefficient,” she says. “It’s a shame to waste people by not giving them a place that supports what they actually do.”

Of course, she says, it’s important for us to bond and to get to know each other. But there are plenty of ways to bond in closed offices. Nagele’s team, for instance, eats lunch together every day. A few ideas come out of lunch time chats, he says, but most are developed from more focused brainstorming sessions.

Finding the right balance  
For jobs that require focus,  like writing, advertising, financial planning and computer programming, some companies that aren’t ready to ditch open plans are experimenting with quiet rooms and closed spaces.

Some of us even feel that escaping to a quiet room is a sign of weakness

The trouble with that, is some of us don’t feel comfortable leaving the team to go off on our own—it can feel as if we’re not pulling our weight if we’re not present. That’s particularly true in high-pressure environments. Some of us even feel that escaping to a quiet room is a sign of weakness, Augustin says.

Other companies are creating closed spaces for smaller teams. Ryan Mullenix, a partner with NBBJ, a global architecture firm, has worked with tech firms that have built offices for between three and 16 people.

They can still collaborate, but they can also block out noise from other teams of people they don’t need to hear from. Technology can also help. Mullenix’s own office has sensors, placed 10 feet apart, that can track noise, temperature and population levels. Staff can log on to an app and can find the quietest spot in the room.
 
People can now do focused work and they have more time to work

Against the grain
Some of us thrive in open offices. Those who do repetitive tasks represent one group. Another: more junior employees. For them, it’s easier to learn by watching how others work. If new-to-work staff get their own office from the start, they may lose focus and perform at a lower level, Augustin says.

The bad news for unhappy open-office dwellers: the concept isn’t going away any time soon.  But, says Nagele, more companies should consider what he’s found. His employees are happier and more productive—and that helps not just the company, but the team.

“People can now do focused work and they have more time to work,” he says. “That’s helped everyone’s mindset.”

Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices

Open Plans Kill Productivity

In my ongoing effort to explore both sides of the open office vs. traditional office debate, here are some thoughts based on science.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology jumped into the fray and came out with a huge study (40k+ workers and over 300 companies).  What did they find out?
 
— Closed offices outperformed open offices for productivity.
— Proxemics issues (how people feel when close) create uncomfortable workers (and therefore less productivity).
— Noise and visual disruption (or as Geoffrey James says below “visual and noise pollution”) creates distraction and focus issues.
 
Read below for more.  The debate continues and there are fatal flaws to both sides.  

 

Craig

602.954.3762


Open-Plan Offices Kill Productivity, According to Science

By Geoffrey James

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Earlier today, I got a story pitch on the “office of the future” that featured the following bullet points:

  Remote Work Will be the New Norm: According to recent Fuze research, 83 percent of workers don’t think they need to be in an office to be productive, and 38 percent said they would enjoy their job more if they were allowed to work remotely.
  Physical Space Will Shrink: We’ll see more companies shift to a more collaborative office space model with workspaces that bring together teams, spark conversation, and create the best ideas.
  Traditional Desks Will Disappear: The so-called cubicle farm will become a distant memory and people will start embracing an environment that suits their needs — whether it be a table at a coffee shop, a standing desk, or collaboration space.
  “Office Hours” Will Become Obsolete: The workday isn’t 9 to 5 anymore, it’s 24/7. In fact, a recent Fidelity survey found that Millennials will take a pay cut for a more flexible work environment.

The list (which is very much “conventional wisdom”) illustrates the crazy-making way that companies think about open-plan offices. Can you see the disconnect? Bullets 1 and 4 are saying that people don’t want to work in an office, while bullets 2 and 3 are defining the very office environment where people don’t want to work.

And isn’t that the sad truth? Most people would rather work at home and or tolerate angry stares from the other patrons in a coffee shop (should one need to make a call) than try to get something done in an open-plan office.

In previous posts, I’ve provided links to numerous studies showing that open-plan offices are both a productivity disaster and a false economy. (The productivity drain more than offsets the savings in square footage.) I’ve even posted some videos showing how wretched (and in some cases ridiculous) these environments truly are.

Well, just in case you weren’t yet convinced, here’s some new evidence from a study of more than 40,000 workers in 300 U.S. office buildings–by far the most comprehensive research on this issue. The results, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, came to the following conclusion:

“Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”

Don’t let the jargon confuse you. The term “proxemics issues” refers to how people feel uncomfortable when they’re forced into close proximity with other people. To be perfectly clear, here’s what the paragraph says: “Open-plan offices aren’t worth it.”

BTW, it isn’t just the noise and the interruptions that cause people to hate open-plan offices. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article:

“All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.”

Unlike noise pollution, which can be remedied with a pair of headsets, there’s no way to block out the visual pollution, short of throwing a towel over your head and screen like a toddler’s play tent.

So, getting back to the story pitch and the conventional wisdom it represents: Yes, indeed, people want to work at home, and yes, indeed, they’re willing to take a cut in pay to get away from the open-plan office that you’ve offered them.

What’s weird is that the people who design office spaces and the executives who hire them don’t see the connection. They seem unable to understand that forcing open-plan offices down everyone’s throat is not only ruining productivity but it’s actively driving good employees to avoid to coming into the office.

So let me make it simple.

Dear Executive: Do you want your employees to come into the office and work long hours while they’re there? THEN GIVE THEM PRIVATE OFFICES. At the very least, give them high-walled cubicles that provide a modicum of privacy.

For crying out loud, is this really that difficult a concept to understand?

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Open Offices

Exposed Ceilings Are Cool But Not Cheap

Exposed ceilings are all the rage, but users pay a price for this look. Most of our clients think it’s less expensive to just demo the ceiling and have a cool open space.  Not so fast.
 
Here are some of the additional costs that come with an exposed ceiling:

– Re-running electrical cabling and HVAC ductwork with the added pressure of making it look cool (“cool” is another word for additional expense).
– Painting the now-exposed components.
– Sound proofing/noise mitigation.  If not designed AND negotiated properly, this could be an after-relocation expense to the tenant. 
 
These are costs to actually construct the open ceiling.  Many times the open ceiling will come with increased utility bills because you have more space to heat and, in Phoenix, to cool.  While this is usually negotiated into the Base year, if the building has more tenants moving in and opening up the ceilings, expenses will continue to rise. 
 
This is something to put in the back of your mind as you contemplate your next office.  OR you can just call us.  We live these issues daily.

 

Craig

602.954.3762


HEADS UP: THE 5 HIDDEN EXPENSES OF OPEN CEILINGS
By Clay Edwards

March 4, 2018
Open ceilings, with their exposed ductwork and industrial vibe have become popular – but trendy rarely equals inexpensive. For many years, omitting the traditional drop ceiling was assumed to be not just cooler but also to cost less. Common sense seemed to be that by choosing open ceilings, the cost of the drop ceiling was simply avoided, saving on labor, materials and time.

2008 study of retail and office interior construction in five cities seemed to back up that assumption. Sponsored by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), the study found that initial construction costs for suspended ceilings were 15-22 percent higher than for open plenums in offices, and 4-11 percent higher in retail spaces.

Great news! Or was it? It appeared this popular feature that conveys a sense of spaciousness and casual charm also saved money. Unfortunately, the news was premature.

Our years of experience have shown that open plenum ceilings have many benefits, but being cheaper isn’t one of them. It’s important to consider the hidden costs of open ceilings, which almost always make them more expensive, particularly over a building’s life cycle.

Hidden expense #1: Open does not mean unfinished
At first glance, it might seem contradictory to think that an open ceiling would cost more than installing a suspended ceiling system and infrastructure. The catch: there’s work required in both cases. Even when ductwork is exposed, it’s anything but unfinished. Hidden ductwork is typically blocky, dirty, oily and generally not aesthetically pleasing. Round or oval ducts deliver a more “finished” look but are significantly more expensive.

Hidden expense #2: Higher labor costs
As commercial construction has ramped up in recent years, developers are seeing a shortage of skilled labor in many trades, driving up construction costs. Open ceilings may involve lower material costs than suspended ceilings, but any savings is more than offset by the cost of labor-intensive tasks required for open plenum. For instance, this may include running all electrical distribution conduit tight to the deck above with the associated additional bends in the runs, rather than running all of the conduit that crosses paths at different elevations.

Hidden expense #3: Making it pretty
At a minimum, space users want everything painted, from the exposed ceiling to the ductwork and plumbing — a job that’s more complicated than simply painting walls. More significantly, existing infrastructure that’s been hiding behind suspended ceilings is often unsightly, requiring major work to make it attractive to employees or customers. In other words, the casual look of an open plenum is actually the result of substantial work.

Hidden expense #4: Sound considerations
In addition to visual considerations, open plenum plans come with a need for acoustical treatments. The panels in suspended ceilings are called acoustical tiles for a reason: they absorb sound to keep ambient noise levels from being disruptive. The hard surfaces of an exposed ceiling can create an echo effect that gets amplified as people talk louder to be heard over ambient noise.

Avoiding noise problems in open plenum plans comes at a cost. Office and retail users may install acoustical panels directly onto the deck, or suspend baffles to absorb sound in critical areas. Another solution: spray-on acoustical material on the ceiling’s hard, reflective surfaces. These products soften the surfaces to absorb some of the noise, and typically have other benefits such as thermal insulation and fire protection.

Hidden expense #5: Skyrocketing energy bills
Even if open plenum ceilings can be installed cost-effectively, there are operational cost considerations that can change the equation somewhat. A major trend in construction cost estimation is to look at the entire life-cycle cost of different solutions, including the cost of energy consumption and maintenance over time, as well as the initial materials and labor.

The CISCA study mentioned previously noted that energy costs were found to be lower in suspended ceilings than in open plenum ceilings. The savings ranged from 9 percent to 10.3 percent in offices, and from 12.7 percent to 17 percent in retail spaces studied. In addition, CISCA noted that open ceilings required frequent cleaning and periodic repainting. “Considering both first-time and operating costs, suspended ceilings are extremely cost effective,” the study concluded.

Weighing the pros and cons
The additional cost of open plenum ceilings shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Office and retail space should be designed and built to maximize its appeal to employees or customers and to enable productive use of the space; incurring an incrementally higher cost structure is a secondary concern. But users who are getting ready to build out space should be aware of the true cost of different alternatives to avoid surprises during construction. It’s natural to make the assumption that an informal, exposed ceiling is less expensive than a suspended ceiling — but the reality is often quite different.

Categories Narrative, Open Offices

Working Remotely

There is such freedom in working remotely.  But, as is the case with everything, there is a dark side.  People who get to work remotely have flexibility and save time from not having to commute. But are these benefits worth the stress?

Remote workers also deal with the following: 
 
–          Feeling disconnected from their team.  And even worse, never even having a team.  You are a solo practitioner.
–          Communication is dramatically impacted.  Because a large portion of communication is nonverbal, remote workers communicate less, have more miscommunication and in general are less informed about direction, goals and scope of projects. 
–          New types of interruptions and distractions arise from family and chores and life.
          Obligation to work longer—as described below, remote workers tend to work longer hours
 
What is the point of all this?  We see a growing trend to have a space for everyone at your office. The advent of open design offices can bring remote workers back to the office part time, and begin to solve some of the issues above. 

Here are some solutions we are seeing.
 
–          Have a landing place in your office…then use it every week.
–          Connect with team members on a weekly basis. Go to the office.  Meet with your coworkers and colleagues. Or schedule Skype sessions if you are in a different city.
–          At home, have a starting and ending time, just like the office
–          Limit interruptions. Figure out a way to let those around you at home know that you are working so they do not interrupt you.
 
For office space needs, furniture options, a redesign of your current space to accommodate remote workers, or just to kick these ideas around, email or call me.

Craig

602.954.3762


I’ve Worked Remotely For 5 Years, And It’s Stressing Me Out

By Martin De Wulf
unnamed
February 23, 2018
work remote
In software engineering, remote working makes a lot of sense since, most of the time, you only need a computer and an internet connection to perform your duties. There are fewer reasons to force people to sit in an office every day. As a result, it’s become an important feature of a lot of IT jobs, even here in Belgium–which in my experience isn’t always the most forward-looking job market–where remote work is common for at least a couple days a week.

I’ve been working remotely for a little more than five years now, and it doesn’t come without stress. I think it’s taken a toll on me over the last couple years in particular, especially when I went almost fully remote for a year, from June 2016 to June 2017. In that period I’ve sometimes felt like I existed in a “remote-developer black box”:

It’s Hard To Communicate
Communication tends to stick to structured channels when you work remotely: the chats, daily standups, maybe a few global meetings every other week, Jira for the tasks and bug reports, and lots and lots of emails.

This works well to accomplish structured tasks, but it’s easy to feel  disconnected sometimes. The fact that most of this communication happens in written form or in front of groups makes them unsuitable for small talk or more informal information sharing. And it can hamper your work, as just chatting about the general atmosphere at work can deliver important information about the smooth progress of projects. Worse, it can prevent you from feeling like part of a community.

In addition, written exchanges are more prone to misinterpretation, even with people you know very well. Plus, if you already spend your day typing on a keyboard to accomplish your technical tasks, it’s annoying to have to communicate in written form, too; you end up feeling like a text-processing machine. I began to miss the coffee chats that I’d previously thought to be unproductive wastes of time. I felt detached from the team, especially when the teams I worked with were made of people working in the same place (and seemed to be having fun).

It Causes Interruptions And Multitasking
When working remotely as a developer, chat platforms (usually Slack or HipChat) quickly become your lifeline; that’s the way most people contact you. And to me, being responsive on chat accomplishes the same as being on time at work in an office: it creates an image of reliability. If you don’t want to give the impression that you’re taking a lot of breaks, you might find yourself checking your notifications during lunch, for example. Whereas had people seen you working the whole morning, or had you just talked face-to-face with your coworkers by then, you wouldn’t feel the need to be so responsive. I’ve noticed other remote colleagues get criticized for not answering quickly by chat.

Since people don’t see you physically, they can’t really judge if it’s a good moment to interrupt you. So you get interrupted a lot, and if you’re like me, you feel forced to answer quickly. So you interrupt your own work a lot (programmers in particular tend to loathe this, since it saps their productivity and breaks their focus).

The other problem with remote chat is that people don’t know whether you’re already speaking with somebody else. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been juggling three different conversations at the same time, which to me can become stressful, especially when I have tasks to finish by the end of the day.

There are often “leisure” chats as well, about non-work stuff (usually a lot of memes), which can become very, very chatty. To keep my sanity, I mute these chats most of the time, but when you come back, catching up on everything that was said can be a daunting task, even though it may be my only opportunity to take part in the “office spirit” I’m missing by being a remote worker.

 
It Encourages Overwork
Most jobs come with at least two types of obligation:

  1. Obligations of results, where you commit to give a certain result by a given date. Typically for a developer that means completing a sprint with a given set of bugs/features to develop by a certain deadline.
  2. Obligations of means, where you mainly commit to spending some of your time every day on your work, and you just deliver the results you’ve managed to produce within that time.

I’m not naïve, and I know that in the end (especially in software engineering), most jobs are really about results–you’ll get fired if you produce nothing–and not means. But since people can’t see you work remotely, you might feel more obliged to show results every day, even if it forces you to work way past eight hours a day. I can’t count the number of times a configuration problem or a customer call took a few hours of my day, but I still felt forced to finish the task I’d committed to that day, just so nobody could assume I was slacking off instead of working. Had my coworkers seen me in front of my computer all day, I probably would’ve felt relaxed enough to finish it that task later.

This instinct has led to two things for me: being really appreciated for the reliability of my output, and being seriously overworked. According to Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, this is “the true challenge of managing remote workers: People who work too hard.” In the end, it comes down to the question of trust: My employer trusted me a lot, allowing me to work on my own terms, and in exchange I’ve always felt compelled to work a lot more than if I were in an office.

It’s Challenging Being A Stay-At-Home Dad
When you spend a good part of your time at home, your family sees you as more available than they sometimes should. Even if you have places dedicated to work that should be off-limits to your kids, it’s still tempting for them to come ask you “just a little something.” It’s hard to expect children to compartmentalize their home–actually, it’s hard for me, too.

This can make video calls a bit stressful. You’re talking with a customer for example, and your kids end up just appearing behind you on video. Remember this?

I also know some people have problems resisting the need to perform home duties, like cleaning the kitchen. This has never been too much of an issue for me, but it’s created tension with my wife from time to time, since it was difficult for her to understand how I could’ve left a dirty dish on the dining room table all day while I was actually at home. (Answer: I was working and avoiding interruptions . . . )

It Can Feel Lonely
Working at home can mean a lot of loneliness. I do enjoy being alone quite a lot, but even for me, after two weeks of only seeing colleagues through my screen, and then my family at night, I end up feeling quite sad. I miss feeling integrated in a community of pairs.

Interacting on social networks might help you fight that loneliness a little, but the experience isn’t different enough from working on your computer. Plus, it’s also well-known that spending a lot of time on social networks tends to make you less happy than the opposite. Eventually, I really started to hate being alone; it began to impact my mental health and my mood (another well-documented phenomenon).

Working Outside Your Home Has Drawbacks
One of the most common ways to fight this is to work in coworking spaces. But I find them a mixed bag; they cost real money (which your employer might agree to pay, or not) and often ask for time commitments (usually at least a month). They can create social environments and work opportunities, but at the risk of feeling a bit too much like a vacation camp, with activities every day (cooking, massages, meet-ups) designed to force people to socialize. I actually found myself going to coworking spaces only when those events weren’t scheduled–and gave up going altogether rather quickly, since it seemed pointless to use a coworking space to avoid loneliness only to not talk to anybody.

Commuting to a coworking space takes time, and when you’re there, you may work with headphones all day to avoid distractions, barely taking breaks (because you lost time commuting), and feeling awkward for not taking advantage of the community. As an added problem, video calls are more difficult to do in these settings, since there’s not much space to be alone, always a bit of noise, and the risk you’ll annoy people in earshot (or you have things to say that you don’t want them hearing).

Working remotely outside my home–whether in a coworking space or not–sometimes means not knowing where I’ll be working every day, and it’s stressful having to think about which hardware I need to take with me (keyboards, DVI adapters, chargers). Coffee shops are usually a bad idea, at least for full days: there’s too much noise, and I don’t like feeling obligated to buy something to eat or drink periodically to justify my presence.

Obviously, when you work remotely you don’t leave your workplace at night. And if your coworkers are in different time zones, you end up communicating a lot after your workday is over (I did that for months when working with people based in New York or San Francisco). It often makes sense; otherwise you might have few chances to speak with your team, which can really slow down projects, but it means there’s little time free of work-related concerns.

Finally, working at home doesn’t leave time to cool off while coming back home from work. For me, the ideal commuting duration is 15–20 minutes. That gives you some time to walk (which means at least some physical exercise) and change your thoughts a bit. Many evenings, I’d go from a video meeting to a family dinner in 30 seconds, making it hard to offer my kids my full attention.

It Comes With Unforeseen Costs
If you want to gain responsibilities over time, working with limited visibility can be a problem. At one employer I felt that people in the office were preferred for promotions. To be sure, working remotely over the last few years has been a boon to my family while our kids were small. It made it possible for my wife and me to pursue our careers with minimal hassle, since I was more available to take care of the kids when they were sick (which happens a lot in their infancy). And while that meant catching up on work in the evenings and weekends, I appreciated that flexibility.

Remote working also allowed me to join high-quality teams I wouldn’t have found in my local job market. So while I’m still a fan of remote work, it really took a toll on my mental comfort sometimes, which has impacted my family relationships–mainly just through my own irritability. In my experience, remote work can cut you off from the human interactions that make all those work-related tasks feel meaningful. Ultimately, for all its benefits, I don’t like being in the remote-developer black box.

Categories Narrative, Office Market, Open Offices

The “Coffice”

In our ongoing discussion about the future of office space, here is a nice stat:  In this cycle, office space users have been taking approximately ½ of the space they took as they grew in the last cycle. 

We know why—open office, the explosion of the tech companies and shared space environment and all the startups actively trying to disrupt every business on the earth. So where does this go?   Below are my thoughts followed by an article by Sarah Knapton, a futurologist  I liked because of her use of the “Coffice”—Coffee office.
 
– The workforce will become more and more mobile—this is happening and it will continue unabated.
 
– Most white collar jobs will figure out how to become more flexible so you don’t have to be there all the time.

– Offices will continue to gravitate towards an open environment but solutions to decrease the added distractions created by these offices will continue to emerge. 

– People will want an office to go to, even if they only go occasionally. AND they will want it to be their company, not just a bunch of other mobile workers they hang out with.  Culture eats strategy for lunch.  The only place to get your company culture is at YOUR office. 
 
Anybody want to add to or argue against these?  Send me an email.

Craig

602.954.3762


Open-plan offices don’t work and will be replaced by the ‘coffice’, says BT futurologist
By Sarah Knapton,
unnamed
October 11, 2017

They were supposed to generate a sense of camaraderie, enhance teamwork and encourage an open flow of ideas between colleagues after decades of segregation in booths.

But open-plan offices are actually bad for productivity, allowing workers to be interrupted every three minutes by a range of distractions, a futurologist at BT has warned.

Dr Nicole Millard, an expert in data, analytics and emerging technology, said that large offices are inefficient, especially for introverts who work better when they are not disturbed, and predicted they will soon die out.

Instead, she has forecasts that employees in the future will become ‘shoulder-bag workers’ carrying their offices in backpacks and collaborating in small teams in coffee shops – or ‘coffices.’

Although many firms believe large, open-plan workspaces help collaboration, in fact, unless staff are in close proximity ‘you might as well be in Belgium’, said Dr Millard. However research has shown that put workers too close together and they clam up, as if being stuck in a lift together.

“The trouble with open-plan offices is they are a one-size-fits-all model which actually fits nobody,” Dr Millard said at New Scientist Live in London yesterday.

“We’re interrupted every three minutes. It takes us between eight and 20 minutes to get back into that thought process. Email. We get too much. Meetings, colleagues. It’s all distracting.

“Is being switched on making us more productive? The answer is no. The problem of the future is switching off. The big damage is task-switching. You can tell you have been task switching when you switch off your computer at night and find there several unclosed windows or unsent emails still there because you were interrupted.

“So we will become shoulder bag workers. Our technology has shrunk so we can literally get our office in a small bag. We are untethered, we don’t have to have a desk anymore.”
However Dr Millard said that offices are still important, if only for socialising.

“We need a balance between we and me,” she added. “We need to give people options of how they can work, such as home working.

“But I do go a tiny bit nuts if I am just at home, so I think we will start to embrace ‘the coffice’ I need good coffee, connectivity, cake, my wifi wings to fly me into the cloud. I like company. The ‘coffice’ could be a coffee shop or a hotel lobby.”

Dr Millard said the ageing workforce will also change how offices work, because older people will no longer want to work nine to five or commute for long distances.

By 2039 the Office for National Statistics expects that the number of people aged 75 and over will have risen by 89pc to 9.9 million and one in 12 of the population will be 80 or over.

When the state pension was introduced in 1909 it was intended to aid those aged 70 or older at a time when the average man died at 59 and the average woman at 63.

“The average pension pot is designed to last only 18 years, so we’re going to be working a lot longer,” she said.

“We have an older workforce, which is fantastic because they have accumulated experience gained over many years but they are probably not going to work nine to five, or commute into work. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I worked from nine to five.”

She also said that it was unlikely the robots would take most jobs.

“A lot of these technology won’t replace us they will help us to the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs that we don’t want to do. It’s very difficult for robots to replicate humans. They don’t have the dexterity, the empathy, the gut feelings.

“I think the rise of the droids is a positive trend and can make us feel more valuable as human beings.”

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Open Offices

World’s Coolest Offices 2017

Every year, we share the most innovative offices from around the world (and a few from our own clients).  Below is our list from 2017. 

First, you get a few of the best clients we were fortunate enough to work with this past year. We can hold our own here in the Valley of the Sun.  Below our clients are the international companies from Inc. Magazine. It’s amazing to see the creativity that goes into building out all of these spaces.  
 
Pick your favorite. I love Kudelski (our client—but I’ve been in the space), and the Airbnb space in Dublin.  Scroll down, it’s worth your time. 
 
Enjoy,

Craig

PS — In addition to the coolest offices of 2017, we had a client (Oaktree Capital and Cypress Properties) turn loose 4 architects to build out 4 spaces without direction or budget.  We called it Project Future (check out this background video). These 4 spaces turned out fabulous and the 600 people who toured them on opening night loved the show. Click here to see the spaces and the party.


MindBody

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SkySong 4

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Greater Phoenix Economic Council

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Booker Software

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Kudelski Security

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And of course, our home, Lee & Associates

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15 OFFICES THAT WILL MAKE YOU INSANELY JEALOUS

By JEREMY BITTERMANN
Inc._logo
December 29th, 2017

 

Crazy indoor plant life. Castles and opium factories converted into headquarters. Inc. has been keeping tabs on the very coolest offices throughout the year. Here are the best of the best. 

1.    One with nature

If you can’t work outdoors, bring the outdoors inside. Swedish gaming company King used real lichen and trees built out of plywood to create a hideaway that feels like a Scandinavian forest. 

IMAGE: KING; DESIGN: ADOLFSSON & PARTNERS; PHOTOGRAPHY: JOACHIM BELAIEFF

2. Nod to yesteryear

Airy and filled with natural light, WeWork’s flagship China office is built into what used to be an opium factory. The space uses the building’s original staircase and steel beams, painted green for a more natural feel. 

IMAGE: DESIGN: WEWORK & LINEHOUSE; PHOTO: WEWORK

3. Color by number

Dutch architecture firm MVRDV designed a wing of its headquarters to resemble a doll house. The rooms are color-coded by purpose, from the red TV lounge to the dark blue meeting room.

IMAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY: OSSIP VAN DUIVENBODE

4. Through the years

The offices of genealogy company Ancestry pay tribute to the firm’s employees–and their roots. Portraits of long-tenured workers are hung next to photos of family members from generations ago.

IMAGE: DESIGN: RAPT STUDIO; PHOTO: JEREMY BITTERMANN

5. Over the rainbow

Media agency Canvas outfitted its office with dichroic glass, which reflects light at different angles. The glass changes color depending on the time of day and the angle at which you view it. 


IMAGE: CANVAS WORLDWIDE; DESIGN: A+I; PHOTO: MICHAEL WELLS

6. Get nutty

Vice’s Toronto office has a bar designed to feel like a throwback saloon. Made of walnut, it’s stocked with coffee and tea, plus bourbon and whiskey for after hours.


IMAGE: ADRIEN WILLIAMS

7. A colorful history

British startup Money.co.uk converted a Victorian castle into its new home. The new digs combine old-fashioned decor with kitschy elements and pops of color for a truly unique feel. 


IMAGE: DESIGN: INTERACTION; PHOTO: CHRIS TERRY

8. Stepping up

Airbnb’s Dublin office is the first one the company has designed from scratch. It’s broken into 29 distinct “neighborhoods,” and the staircase at the center serves as a lounge and meeting area.


IMAGE: DESIGN: HENEGHAN PENG ARCHITECTS; PHOTO: DONAL MURPHY

9. Recharge

PwC’s new Switzerland office gives employees the chance to catch up on rest in the nap room. The natural color palette gives the space a calming, outdoorsy feel.


IMAGE: DESIGN: EVOLUTION DESIGN; PHOTO: PETER WUERMLI

10. Keep it green

Instead of dividers or walls, co-working space Second Home separates its cubicles with greenery. The Lisbon, Portugal-based office is home to more than 1,000 plants, which also helps improve the office’s air quality.


IMAGE: DESIGN: SELGASCANO; PHOTO: IWAN BAAN

11. Grayscale

Squarespace went with a sleek, minimalist scheme for its 98,000 sq. ft. New York office. It’s almost entirely black, white, and gray, with the only splashes of color coming from the plant life. 


IMAGE: DESIGN: A+I; PHOTO: SQUARESPACE

12. The ring

Apple’s new spaceship-like headquarters give life to a vision initially laid out by Steve Jobs. The campus is home to 12,000 employees and 9,000 trees, and it relies entirely on renewable energy.


IMAGE: COURTESY APPLE

13. It’s alive

That’s not a painting: LinkedIn’s 26-story San Francisco headquarters feature a living wall next to the 17th story juice bar. It’s made of various types of moss and has both depth and texture.

IMAGE: DESIGN: IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS; PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC LAIGNEL

14. Dual purpose

Boston-based Pillpack outfitted its lounge with a refurbished Prohibition-era bar. It serves espresso during the day and turns into a DJ booth during nighttime events.


IMAGE: DESIGN: HALEY MCLANE, PHOTOGRAPHY: JARED KUZIA

15. Looking forward

Google broke ground on its new London headquarters in late 2017. The 1,066-foot “landscraper” will contain offices, swimming pools, and basketball courts, and will be almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall.


IMAGE: COURTESY GOOGLE

 

 

Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices, Tech Industry

World’s Smartest Building

Sustainability is a huge priority for many in commercial real estate these days. The movement towards green, sustainable buildings has opened the doors for new innovations. The below article highlights a building in Amsterdam that received the highest score for sustainability in the world from BREEAM, the world’s leading assessment for sustainable buildings. Even more exciting for me are all the OTHER upgrades that also make it the smartest building in the world.
 
This building features sustainability measures like:
 
-Thousands of meters of solar panelling
-Aquifer thermal energy storage to supply heating and cooling
-A 15-story atrium with natural ventilation

In addition, this building is interconnected and runs almost entirely through a smartphone app. You read that right. The app helps employees:

– Find a desk. Desks aren’t assigned so employees move around every day. 
– Direct you to a parking spot.
– Adjust the heating/cooling in your area. 
 
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability/smart buildings and what it means for the future development of commercial real estate, email me.

Craig
602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com

P.S.- From a smart building to a couple of not-that-smart brokers. Unleash your inner DJ with the Sharks in this week’s video. Click here to learn all about the 1’s and 2’s of Lobby DJ’s.

Lobby DJ
If you are unable to view the video, please click here.


The Smartest Building in the World
Inside the connected future of architecture 
Bloomberg

By Tom Randall
Sept. 23, 2015

It knows where you live. It knows what car you drive. It knows who you’re meeting with today and how much sugar you take in your coffee. (At least it will, after the next software update.) This is the Edge, and it’s quite possibly the smartest office space ever constructed.

A day at the Edge in Amsterdam starts with a smartphone app developed with the building’s main tenant, consulting firm Deloitte. From the minute you wake up, you’re connected. The app checks your schedule, and the building recognizes your car when you arrive and directs you to a parking spot.

Then the app finds you a desk. Because at the Edge, you don’t have one. No one does. Workspaces are based on your schedule: sitting desk, standing desk, work booth, meeting room, balcony seat, or “concentration room.” Wherever you go, the app knows your preferences for light and temperature, and it tweaks the environment accordingly.

Photographer: Ronald Tilleman

The Edge is also the ­greenest building in the world, according to British rating agency BREEAM, which gave it the highest sustainability score ever awarded: 98.4 percent. The Dutch have a phrase for all of this: het nieuwe werken, or roughly, the new way of working. It’s about using information technology to shape both the way we work and the spaces in which we do it. It’s about resource efficiency in the traditional sense—the solar panels create more electricity than the building uses—but it’s also about the best use of the humans.

The building of the future necessitated invention. Several stand out. The super-efficient LED panels, made by Philips specifically for the Edge, require such a trickle of electricity they can be powered using the same cables that carry data for the Internet. The panels are also packed with sensors—motion, light, temperature, humidity, infrared—creating a “digital ceiling” that wires the building like synapses in a brain.

All told, the Edge is packed with some 28,000 sensors.

“We think we can be the Uber of buildings,” says Coen van Oostrom, chief executive officer of OVG Real Estate, the building’s developer. “We connect them, we make them more efficient, and in the end we will actually need fewer buildings in the world.”

Fifteen-Story Atrium

The atrium is the gravitational center of the Edge’s solar system. Mesh panels between each floor let stale office air spill into open space, where it rises and is exhaled through the roof, creating a loop of natural ventilation. Slight heat variations and air currents make it feel like the outdoors. Even on a stormy day, the building remains opalescent with natural light and angles of glass.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

The atrium and its iconic slanted roof, which looks from the outside as if a wedge has been sliced off the building, floods the workspaces with daylight and provides a sound buffer from the adjacent highway and train tracks. Every workspace is within 7 meters (23 feet) of a window.

“A quarter of this building is not allocated desk space, it’s a place to meet,” says Ron Bakker, architect of the Edge at London-based PLP Architecture. “We’re starting to notice that office space is not so much about the workspace itself; it’s really about making a working community, and for people to have a place that they want to come to, where ideas are nurtured and the future is determined.”

New Way of Working

About 2,500 Deloitte workers share 1,000 desks. The concept is called hot desking, and it’s supposed to encourage new relationships, chance interactions, and, just as important, efficient use of space. Desks are only used when they’re needed. Some tiny rooms at the Edge contain just a lounge chair and a lamp (no desk)—perfect for a phone call. There are also game rooms and coffee bars with espresso machines that remember how you like your coffee. Massive flatscreens around every corner can be synced wirelessly with any phone or laptop.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Since workers at the Edge don’t have assigned desks, lockers serve as home base for the day. Find a locker with a green light, flash your badge, and it’s yours. Employees are discouraged from keeping a single locker for days or weeks, because part of thehet nieuwe werken philosophy is to break people away from their fixed locations and rigid ways of thinking.

A Dashboard to Rule Them All

Deloitte is collecting gigabytes of data on how the Edge and its employees interact. Central dashboards track everything from energy use to when the coffee machines need to be refilled. On days when fewer employees are expected, an entire section might even be shut down, cutting the costs of heating, cooling, lighting, and cleaning.

Source: Deloitte

Deloitte’s general philosophy with the Edge was that anything with a return on ­investment of less than 10 years is worth a try. The digital ceiling was one of the most expensive innovations; Deloitte wouldn’t disclose the cost, but Erik Ubels, chief information officer for Deloitte in the Netherlands, says it will take 8.3 years to earn it back.

There’s no doubt, says Ubels, that in the future all buildings will be connected, both internally and to other buildings. “The multi-billion-dollar question is who is going to do it. Whoever is successful is going to be one of the most successful companies in the world.”

An Evolving App

The smartphone is your passport to the Edge. Use it to find your colleagues, adjust the heating, or manage your gym routine. You can even order up a dinner recipe, and a bag of fresh ingredients will await you when the workday is over. All desks are equipped with built-in wireless chargers so your phone can keep itself charged.

Electric Car and Bike Parking

When you arrive at the Edge, garage entry is automated. A camera snaps a photo of your license plate, matches it with your employment record, and raises the gate. Even the garage uses sensor-equipped LED lights, which brighten as you approach and dim as you leave. It’s the Netherlands, so a separate garage for bicycles and free chargers for electric vehicles aren’t surprising. In Amsterdam, even the airport taxis are Teslas.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Don’t worry, your boss can’t access personal data from the Edge’s sensors and has no idea how many meetings you’ve missed this year. To be sensitive of privacy concerns, Deloitte surveyed employees before it installed the license plate scanner. The vast majority of respondents thought it was fine, as long as it made work life easier.

Long Blue Tubes

The Edge is wired with a vast network of two different kinds of tubes: one that holds data (ethernet cables) and another that holds water. Behind each ceiling tile is a massive coil of thin blue piping that delivers water to and from the building’s subterranean water storage for radiant heating and cooling.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

During summer months, the building pumps warm water more than 400 feet deep in the aquifer beneath the building, where it sits, insulated, until winter, when it’s sucked back out for heating. The system developed for the Edge is the most efficient aquifer thermal energy storage in the world, according to Robert van Alphen, OVG’s project manager for the Edge.

Powered by the Sun

The southern wall is a checkerboard of solar panels and windows. Thick load-bearing concrete helps regulate heat, and deeply recessed windows reduce the need for shades, despite direct exposure to the sun. The roof is also covered with panels. The ​Edge uses ​7​0 percent less electricity than ​the typical office building​, but it wasn’t until OVG installed panels on the rooftops of some neighboring university buildings that the Edge was able to boast that it produces more energy than it consumes.

Watch the video

Is It Hot, or Just Me?

Sensors in the LED light panels report detailed temperature and humidity readings across a floor (above). A Deloitte survey found that while fewer than a quarter of employees actively use the app’s thermostat features, three-quarters say they love it. Maybe that’s because precision controls eliminate the problem of natural hot and cold spots, often found near windows.

Source: Deloitte

A coming app upgrade will boost efficiency further by suggesting desk locations to employees based on their temperature preferences and meeting locations throughout the day.

Trickle-Down Toilet Water

A massive concrete tub in the back of the parking garage gathers the rainwater used to flush the building’s toilets and water the gardens. It’s a loud room on a rainy day. The water rushes down from collection systems on the roof and outdoor balcony.

RoboCop and the Vacuum

This little robot (bottom left) comes out at night to patrol the grounds. If an alarm goes off, the camera-­equipped automaton can identify the culprit or let security know it was a false alarm. It cruises around automatically like a Roomba or can be commandeered by remote control. Deloitte’s Erik Ubels says he noticed similar robots in shipyards, tracked down the manufacturer, and asked if they could be modified for office security.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

For smarter cleaning, activity is tracked by sensors built into light panels, so at the end of the day, the people and robots (above right) responsible for cleaning can focus on the areas that have been used most heavily that day.

Human Power

The on-site gym encourages employees to break for a midday workout. Flash your phone at the check-in station and the gym’s app automatically tracks your progress. Some of the ­exercise stations here will actually harness the energy from your workout, sending hard-earned watts back to the grid—as if you didn’t already feel like a hamster in a wheel.

Not Just a Towel Dispenser

The Edge watches you in the bathroom, too (but not in a creepy way). A normal-looking towel dispenser provides a spool of cloth for hand-drying. Unlike a typical hand dryer, though, this one is connected to the Internet. It lets the cleaning staff know when a busy bathroom is probably ready for a cleanup.

Ecological Corridor

Birds, bats, bees, and bugs. These are the building’s neighbors on the north-facing terrace. OVG worked with Amsterdam officials to establish a continuous path of vegetation that supports beneficial insects throughout the city. Birdhouses and bat boxes are tucked discreetly into the landscaping. These pockmarked towers support various species of solitary bees, which buzz about the flowers on the public terrace.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Editors: Bryant Urstadt, Katie Drummond
Photo Editor: Donna Cohen
Producer: Bernadette Walker

 

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Categories Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Open Offices

Boosting Productivity in the Office

Workspace design continues to be a hot topic. Last week, I talked about the huge issues that come with open design that we are now discussing with all of our clients. Below my comments is an infographic on a survey that Cort Furniture compiled on workplace trends. I follow it up with a bonus article on how designers are trying to increase productivity as 81% of clients now use their offices as a workplace recruitment tool and 70% of offices now offer some type of flexible work hours for employees.

Here is a quick summary of all of my comments from the past two weeks:

  • The idea of “productivity” is evolving; collaboration techniques between employees and a more cohesive work environment seem to be the key to modern efficiency.
  • The need for privacy is not lost; it is still an integral part of today’s workplace. The idea is to have an alliance between quality group-work and necessary private time. Designers need to continue to work on this and noise disruptions in all environments.
  • In our health-conscious society, office trends now include variations of desks, conference rooms and meeting areas that accommodate both sitting and standing.

If you have any questions or concerns, we are here to navigate you though all the rapid changes occurring in our world. Give us a call.

Craig
602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com


P.S. We were proud to represent Ober & Pekas in their recent relocation to CopperPoint Tower at 3030 N. 3rd Street. 

Obers_Pekas_PostcardFINAL
For our one minute case studies, please click here.

CRTCOR15056_Workplace_Infographic_R22 (1)

WORKSPACE DESIGN TRENDS TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

YOUR OFFICE NEEDS MORE NOOKS, LESS SITTING. GIVE YOUR EMPLOYEES A SPACE THEY LOOK FORWARD TO COMING TO.

Jul 9, 2014
download
BY VIVIAN GIANG

PRODUCTIVITY TRENDS
[Image: Flickr user 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia]

Creating paths for chance meetings, including nooks, and designing agile, unique workspaces are solutions that designers say promote collaboration, creativity, and productivity in the modern office.

“In the last four to five years, we’ve all been focusing on sustainability and the impact technology has in an office,” says Kay Sargent, director of workplace strategies at infrastructure solutions provider Lend Lease. “During this time, we’ve forgotten that we’re designing for people. Now there’s a real focus on trying to maximize human potential, performance, and productivity.”

But what is productivity? It’s no longer about sitting at your desk with your head down working all day.

“I think of [productivity] as effectively creating ideas and solving problems and a lot of that has to do with being collaborative,” says Miguel McKelvey, cofounder and chief creative officer of coworking office space WeWork.

To help employees come up with their next great idea, McKelvey and Sargent provide the most current trends in workspace designs:

CREATE PATHS FOR CHANCE MEETINGS
In the past, people used to have to sit at their desks if they needed to answer emails, but today, anyone can do that—or any other work—from anywhere. This means that, from a creative perspective, it’s no longer necessary to make sure people are at their desks at all time.

“It’s more crucial to make sure people are connecting and brainstorming with each other,” says McKelvey, who leads design and architecture at WeWork.

“We’re very specific when we’re drawing work plans. We think about the chances of when a person gets off the elevator where they will go,” he says. “We think about how people get to a coffee machine, when they go and get their lunch, when they go to the bathroom.”

The chance encounters are necessary to increase familiarity and to hopefully create conversations that lead to solutions.

Sargent, former vice president of architecture and design at furniture manufacturer Teknion, says there is a popularity now for designs that help people move.

“There’s a huge movement now to design for human potential … for intellectual and emotional intelligence,” she says. “We see staircases are now designed to be in the center of offices and not in the back as exits.” This is because designers have realized that there are several chance encounters that could happen as people pass one another on stairs, simply going to and from their desks.

INCLUDE NOOKS NEAR COMMON AREAS
The best-case scenario when people run into each other is that brilliant conversations spark, resulting in innovative solutions. This is exactly why you should include nooks—areas where people can go and maintain some privacy—around these common areas and paths.

“When you start a conversation when you’re at the coffee machine, you can quickly sit down after and have a 20-minute meeting,” says McKelvey. “If you have to reserve a conference room to finish that conversation, then you lose time. It’s not efficient.”

McKelvey advises to put these nooks adjacent to social places, such as areas for eating, coffee, or printing.

BUILD CONFERENCE ROOMS DIRECTLY IN COMMON AREAS
Instead of the boring walls that usually put people to sleep, glass walls in the middle of a busy area can help keep the mind awake.

YOU CAN’T CONTROL ALL DISTRACTIONS, BUT YOU CAN GET UP AND MOVE.
“Your mind is being spiked by the activity that’s swirling around,” says McKelvey. The downside is that this could be a problem for people who have issues concentrating.

INCLUDE BOOTHS FOR PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS
With the popularity of open floor plans, “it’s certainly important for people to have a sense of privacy,” says McKelvey. “People need a space that they can go to make a conference or Skype call.”

“It’s important to create those spaces and create a company culture that supports those spaces.” In other words, you don’t want to have a culture where the boss is always asking why someone isn’t at their desk.

People need to feel like they can go to a private area for a phone call or simply to work uninterrupted if they need to.

CREATE AN AGILE WORKSPACE
“We’re designing spaces today where every employee doesn’t have to sit in a specific spot,” says Sargent. “Rather than going to sit in one desk all day, it could be that I’ll start working at a bench, then I’ll go to a more quiet space for head-down concentration, then I’ll go to the social hub because I want to connect with my co-workers. We’ve moved beyond traditional offices to agile design.”

Sargent says agile designs make more sense because it feels more comfortable for employees. If you have a house, you go to the space designed for the task at hand instead of having to sit in one spot all day. This increases your movement, and creates an agile environment where people have choices, more control, and power.

“We still need to conquer how to control distractions. You can’t control all distractions, but you can get up and move.”

HAVE ADJUSTABLE DESKS AND CONFERENCE TABLES
Research shows that sitting too much is harmful to our health and employers should be concerned about the health of their biggest asset: their employees.

The solution to this problem is the adjustable desk, which is said to be a healthier alternative and can help people feel more alert throughout the day.

“Desks need to be in sync with our natural movements,” says Sargent. “If I want to stand, I should be able to stand and if I want to sit, I should be able to sit.”

Sargent says desks today should be able to adjust to any height and conference tables should do the same since research also shows that standing meetings keep groups more engaged and less territorial than sitting meetings.

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Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices

The Open Office Trap

Yes, open office is all the rage. But there is fallout (as I get older, I can now see there is good and bad in literally everything). Below is a contrarian view on the whole open office collaborative space perspective. Around 70% of all offices are now building open office environments. And with all this openness comes some pretty serious problems. We have already talked about noise and interruptions, but how about these:

–Increased sick days
–Shortened attention spans creating less-than-quality work
–Longer periods to get back to the priority work
–More stress

There are even more below. I highlighted all the issues in green (you’ll notice there’s lots of green).

What does this mean? Instead of just designing space to keep up with the cool crowd, how about designing it to fit your actual requirements? Novel concept.

Next week, I am going back to the mainstream and will be sending some thoughts on office productivity. Stick with our narrative, and you will see all the sides of the debate. Or call us, we live it daily.

Thanks,

Craig
602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com

P.S.- Do your young guys grind 80 hours a week? In this week’s preview, we give you a taste of what it means to be a runner in commercial real estate. Click here to see the full video on our website.

Runner Pt. 1
If you are unable to view the video, please click here.


The Open-Office Trap

BY 
The New Yorker
JANUARY 7, 2014


PHOTOGRAPH BY VIEW PICTURES/UIG VIA GETTY

In 1973, my high school, Acton-Boxborough Regional, in Acton, Massachusetts, moved to a sprawling brick building at the foot of a hill. Inspired by architectural trends of the preceding decade, the classrooms in one of its wings didn’t have doors. The rooms opened up directly onto the hallway, and tidbits about the French Revolution, say, or Benjamin Franklin’s breakfast, would drift from one classroom to another. Distracting at best and frustrating at worst, wide-open classrooms went, for the most part, the way of other ill-considered architectural fads of the time, like concrete domes. (Following an eighty-million-dollar renovation and expansion, in 2005, none of the new wings at A.B.R.H.S. have open classrooms.) Yet the workplace counterpart of the open classroom, the open office, flourishes: some seventy per cent of all offices now have an open floor plan.

The open office was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the nineteen-fifties, to facilitate communication and idea flow. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve. In June, 1997, a large oil and gas company in western Canada asked a group of psychologists at the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional office arrangement to an open one. The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, four weeks after the transition, and, finally, six months afterward. The employees suffered according to every measure: the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell.

In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprisethey were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared

Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance. Open offices also remove an element of control, which can lead to feelings of helplessness. In a 2005 study that looked at organizations ranging from a Midwest auto supplier to a Southwest telecom firm, researchers found that the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.

An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health. In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace. Workers in two-person offices took an average of fifty per cent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of sixty-two per cent more.

But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise. In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees. In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for three hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response. What’s more, Evans and Johnson discovered that people in noisy environments made fewer ergonomic adjustments than they would in private, causing increased physical strain. The subjects subsequently attempted to solve fewer puzzles than they had after working in a quiet environment; in other words, they became less motivated and less creative.

Open offices may seem better suited to younger workers, many of whom have been multitasking for the majority of their short careers. When, in 2012, Heidi Rasila and Peggie Rothe looked at how employees of a Finnish telecommunications company born after 1982 reacted to the negative effects of open-office plans, they noted that young employees found certain types of noises, such as conversations and laughter, just as distracting as their older counterparts did. The younger workers also disparaged their lack of privacy and an inability to control their environment. But they believed that the trade-offs were ultimately worth it, because the open space resulted in a sense of camaraderie; they valued the time spent socializing with coworkers, whom they often saw as friends.

That increased satisfaction, however, may merely mask the fact that younger workers also suffer in open offices. In a 2005 study, the psychologists Alena Maher and Courtney von Hippel found that the better you are at screening out distractions, the more effectively you work in an open office. Unfortunately, it seems that the more frantically you multitask, the worse you become at blocking out distractions. Moreover, according to the Stanford University cognitive neuroscientist Anthony Wagner, heavy multitaskers are not only “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli” but also worse at switching between unrelated tasks. In other words, if habitual multitaskers are interrupted by a colleague, it takes them longer to settle back into what they were doing. Regardless of age, when we’re exposed to too many inputs at once—a computer screen, music, a colleague’s conversation, the ping of an instant message—our senses become overloaded, and it requires more work to achieve a given result.

Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”

 

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