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Do open workspaces hurt productivity?

I've longed worked in open office layouts and I like them and think high cubes are anti-social. But was ready this statement by someone who went from closed to open work plan and there is some truth wondering what people to increase productivity in an open office or if it's not that big a deal to worry about?
"As the new space intended, I've formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low.My productivity has taken a hit"

26 Replies

Igor Chernyy
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Igor Chernyy Entrepreneur
Senior Cloud Architect at Lyric Labs
I have worked in both types of environments before. From my experience they just focus on two different types of work. I found that in a cubicle I was doing a lot more work, but my level of collaboration was very low. I couldn't bounce ideas off my fellow developers as easily. So yes, I was pumping out more code, but it was lower in quality and any sense of the 'team' was lacking.

From my experience, happy and excited team is productive team. If you have people who are responsible, they know when they need to go hide somewhere or work from home to focus down the task. So from my perspective it comes down to the type of team dynamic that you are trying to create. I don't see it as an inherent problem as long as your team can handle the freedom.
Amir Yasin
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Amir Yasin Advisor
Developer, Architect
Anecdotal evidence aside research shows open office spaces aren't very good. I also personally find them to be troublesome. I can get just as much collaboration without them and much higher productivity.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/work-blog/2014/sep/29/open-plan-office-health-productivity
Jake Carlson
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Jake Carlson Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Development Manager at Oracle
I've worked in both and I do think there is a happy medium. I often prefer an enclosed area so I can focus, but at the same time putting on some headphones can have much the same effect. I've found that cubes just below eye level offer me the just about the right balance of privacy and collaboration. They are low enough that I can peer over the wall and speak with my neighbor but I don't feel that I'm always on display.
Peter White
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Peter White Advisor
Founder at Knowledgewerkz | Technologist, Consultant, and Advisor
Aside from the social aspect, I'm not a big fan of open workspaces. I wrote the following blog post on strategies to mitigate the negative productivity impact of open workspaces:

http://www.knowledgewerkz.com/blog/2015/02/minimizing-interruptions-and-distractions-at-work/

I hope this helps!
Peter
Duke Browning
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Duke Browning Entrepreneur
Technology Leader & Entrepreneur
I can't speak for most types of work, but for software creation, great productivity requires long periods of uninterrupted focus. Any environment that doesn't let you get in the "zone", or knocks you out of it, reduces both the quantity and quality of the code. Much of software creation requires holding several concepts and/or tasks in your mind at once (add this code, then go change that dependency, then test that other thing, etc...). Some developers need a quiet environment, for others, headphones are enough.

I find the "middle ground" really bad. Either an enclosed office or an open environment like a coffee shop (where all the distractions become white noise) will work, but low cubicles with mixed job types (phone users and developers, for example) are the absolute worst.

Avrum Mayman
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Avrum Mayman Advisor
Innovator, Entrepreneur, Product Visionary
I've worked in both as well, and find the open office a big drag on productivity - even having headphones on doesn't stop someone from interrupting you when you're in mid-thought. What often is neglected in both environments is having enough "closed" space like conference rooms and phone booths so that serious collaboration, or quiet thought can happen without disruption.
David Schreiber
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David Schreiber Entrepreneur
Founder
Different office layouts are best for different types of workers. A chatty, energized open plan is good for some types of work, terrible for others (and likewise for individual offices).The important thing is empathy: understand what each category of worker needs, and accommodate as best as is possible.

The worst thing one can do is to intermix incompatible types. For example, by putting people whose job it is to be on the phone all day next to software developers, who need as much quiet as possible.
Karen Leventhal
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Karen Leventhal Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at SE Rising
As a former Myers-Briggs personality profile trainer, you've got introverts and extroverts. A open layout maybe fantastic for extroverts, who need interaction. But it's tortuous for introverts who need quiet and concentration. So there is the acknowledgement that we are different. For me, I think I would literally have to turn down jobs were there was no quiet space, as I don't think I could function properly. I was thinking about what I would do when we get huge and famous (ha, ha, hopefully). I think I would make flexible space. Private offices and a big open flexible workspace in the middle for anyone, introvert or extrovert who wants to be more collaborative and social. People could use the space as needed.
Kris Young
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Kris Young Entrepreneur • Advisor
Optop-Mechanical Engineer at Advanced Energy
I agree completely with the comment that many places don't have enough space allocated for conference rooms and phone booths! The right answer seems to be that we all need both an open atmosphere and a closed atmosphere at different times and for different people / work types.

Interestingly I've never head of someone being asked which they would prefer when they start at a new company... As an employer wouldn't it be in my best interest to help maximize the productivity (and happieness) of my new employee?
Karen Leventhal
0
0
Karen Leventhal Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at SE Rising
I've hypothesized doing that. I'm curious if asked the question: do you want a private office or an open office? Would anyone would forego the private office? Or maybe that's just me as a person who needs privacy talking. And if it turned out that most people would choose the private office-- what is this whole open layout thing really about? Productivity? Employee satisfaction? or Resource conservation?
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