Browse Tag: open office

Howard Tullman Of 1871 Talks Office Space, Workforce Mobility

howard-tullman

At RE/Journal CRE Forecast Conference this week at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency, the proceedings kicked off with a one-on-one with Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, the non-profit startup hub located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

1871’s reputation as a hotbed of technology startup innovation companies is for real, and Howard’s philosophies are apparent in all details down to the office layout, which became a topic of conversation naturally enough.

1871 currently sports 325 companies with nine unique incubators and accelerators that use markedly different floor plans reflecting in part key commonalities to the tenant companies, whose business lines exceed the boundaries of just high technology.

Visibility — particularly visibility of project leadership by the newest tenants plays a key role in 1871’s office layout.

Newer arrivals begin by climbing a kind of ladder, settling into a class of workspace that offers the least ameneties, but is still in full view of the nicer digs nearby.  The trick is that the nicer space is where tenants whose businesses pass success milestones are moved, producing a kind of conveyor belt of visible success that drives the “Leadership [means] that people need role models and so we live it every day.  We figure if they’re watching [mentor and more advanced businesses] and seeing how we are executing and what our responsibilities are, that’s the best way we can model the commitment that we expect from them.”

Workforce mobility

“I think where we’re headed is a new kind of community. When we talk to our workforce [aged 25 to 55] this idea of proximity [to the workplace] is really significant.  They don’t want to own a car — that was a popular talk at the auto show recently […]  the idea is that the workers want to be close to where they work.”

A return to focus

Tullman went on in the session to describe a real trend in office layout and work patterns toward focus and away from “openness”.

“Openness I think we’re going to see the next few years is going to go away. Kids today think they can multi-task, but multi-tasking means you’re doing a lot of things poorly. So what we’re discovering is […] they go away so they can focus and get something done. This idea of being in a n open area with constant disruption is going to change and it’s going to change pretty soon.”

Wall unit makers, take note.

 

Tech Office Layout Blowback: Partitions Weren’t So Bad After All

English: The RedBalloon office - an example of...

In a refreshing push-back against all things currently trendy in office layout, ad agency creative Lindsey Kaufman takes to the pages of the Washington Post today to rail against the now-popular “open office” design.  Inspired by the tech industry, the open office configuration takes away partitions and emphasizes shared space for a whole host of now-familiar reasons. Kaufman writes:

Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now, about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York,  making “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.

Calling out the “false sense of improved productivity” that bosses take away from office layouts lacking dividers and partitions, Kaufman cites a study published last year in the Journal of Environmental Psychology that finds nearly half of all office workers attribute lack of sound privacy to frustrating distractions leading to poorer performance.

Further, the study finds that the open office provides a solution to a problem that basically nobody ever had — ease of interaction with colleagues. As anybody who’s heard the pitch on the open office layout can recall, office layouts that divide workspaces with walls or partitions tend to interfere with “collaboration” and “the free exchange of information and ideas” about the workplace mission.  Hogwash, says Kaufman:

The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.  Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

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. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter.

Adjust your noise-cancelling headphones and read Kaufaman’s entire piece here.

Photo credit: Wikipedia