by Anna Sharratt
Call it the big open-office rethink. Though the design is still popular, employers are starting to notice its flaws.
Christopher Chapman has strolled through his share of open offices. The Toronto-based president of Derailleur Consulting coaches firms on how to manage their software teams more effectively, and has seen how blowing open and office – removing cubicles and closed-door offices, and pooling different groups of people together in collaborative spaces – can backfire.
At one firm that massed its tech employees in one large room at communal tables, “the noise level was the most interesting thing. It increased through the day,” says Chapman. “People pulled out their Beats headphones – they were using them to dull the noise.” Ironically, following the office redesign, employees had been gifted the $300 headphones by their firm as a Christmas bonus.
Chapman says that although certain groups enjoy working in these hubs (where many are separated solely by computer monitors) the more introverted staffers, those who make private calls as part of their duties or employees who perform high-level task that require a lot of attention are at a disadvantage. “Some people thrive in this environment, but many can’t,” he says. “There’s a lack of focused attention. That runs counter to a sense of collaboration.”
The concept of open-office design, which peaked in the 1960s, has been picked up wholeheartedly by Canadian organizations in the past 10 years, with many new entrants, including high-profile accounting firms, in the past five.
What’s the perceived ROI? may buy into the idea that open offices require less space (which drives down real estate cost), improve efficiencies and boost productivity, says Jennifer Vetch, an environmental psychologist and principal research officer at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. “That’s the simple economic driver”.
This article is reproduced from CPA Magazine, April 2016 issue, with permission of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, Toronto, Canada.
Any changes to the original material are the sole responsibility of EPR Canada Group Inc. and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.