We’ve covered the value of open offices before… (Blog: Setting up an Agile open office). But it would seem that we may have been incorrect about a couple of things.
Wait, what? Every Agile Coach out there believes in the power of open offices, transparency, and increased communication, right???
Well, not so fast, tests carried out for a recent UK TV programme called The Secret Life Of Buildings have produced further evidence that open plan layouts create massive distraction, damaging productivity. The Channel 4 programme’s presenter, architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff, wore a cap that measured his brainwaves while trying to work in an open plan office. The scanner revealed intense bursts of distraction.
“Open plan offices were designed with the idea that people can move around and interact freely to promote creative thinking and better problem solving, but it doesn’t work like that. If you are just getting into some work and a phone goes off in the background, it ruins what you are concentrating on. Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions.” – Dr. Jack Lewis
Further evidence comes from innovative office environment research outfit Leesman. Their comprehensive research on the effects of offices on productivity, wellbeing and satisfaction also shows that noise is a massive problem in modern offices.
Of the 31 aspects of the office environment that Leesman measure, noise levels are rated as the 10th most important factor by the 5,000-plus respondents, but rank 22nd out of 31 in satisfaction. And right at the the bottom of all 31 in satisfaction ranking is… quiet rooms, with an overwhelming 74% of respondents dissatisfied about the availability of quiet working space.
*derp derp* – Looks like agilists have been wrong after all?
So what’s the answer then, pianoman? Maybe a balanced approach and (holy cow), asking your employees what would work for them? Open room for collaboration, but distinct quiet places for individual work?
What do you think?
[HT: The Sound Agency]