Yes, the Open Office Is Terrible — But It Doesn’t Have to Be (Ep. 358 Rebroadcast)

Yes, the Open Office Is Terrible — But It Doesn’t Have to Be (Ep. 358 Rebroadcast)

auto credit v1

Feeling accentuated from working in a loud open bureau? Tell your boss that working from home increases worker productivity by 13 percent!( Photo: MaxPixel)

It began as a post-war dream for a more collaborative and egalitarian workplace. It has evolved into a nightmare of noise and anxiety. Can the open department be saved, or should be used all merely be working from home?

Listen and are contributing to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or elsewhere. Below is a transcript of the occurrence, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the bout, consider the links at the bottom of this post.


Hey, are you at work right now? And do you work in an office? Have you ever ran in country offices? If “youve had”, there’s a good chance it was an open department, at least to some degree. The open part intend has been available for decades, in a variety of models. If you’re a cynic, you are able to conclude an open place is all about cramming the maximum number of employees into the minimum amount of real estate properties. But you could also imagine that an open department creates better interaction and more collaboration. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if this were true? That’s what these people wanted to learn.

Ethan BERNSTEIN: I’m Ethan Bernstein, I’m an associate professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School.

Stephen TURBAN: My name is Stephen Turban. I am a recent alumnu of Harvard College and I currently work for a global management consultancy.

Turban has since moved on from his consulting hassle. Anyway, he and Bernstein had just co-authored a paper announced “The Impact of the Open Workspace on Human Collaboration.”

TURBAN: I don’t belief I recognized how much anger there was against open places until the research was published and I was contacted by a number of friends and colleagues about their open powers and their deep, deep psychological scarring.

BERNSTEIN: There’s certainly local populations of parties out there who abhor — I think that’s perhaps even not strong enough–

DUBNER: Not strong enough, concurred. But followed please.

BERNSTEIN: People find it is not possible to to get office done. They find it demoralizing.

TURBAN: Likewise the lack of privacy, and the feeling that they’re being watched by others.

BERNSTEIN: Privacy tends to give us license to be more experimental, to potentially find opportunities for perpetual increase, to avoid distractions that is likely to take us away from the focus we have on our work.

TURBAN: Ethan is really, I would say, the sovereign of privacy.

BERNSTEIN: My research over time has been about the increasingly transparent workplace and its impact on human behavior and therefore performance. Over time, I’ve gotten expected the question, “What about the open agency? How does it affect the manner in which parties manipulate and collaborate? ” I haven’t had an empirical answer.

In search of an empirical explanation, Bernstein and Turban began its consideration of two Fortune 500 firms that were converting from cubicles to open offices. Sure, the downsides of an open position are obvious: the lack of privacy; having to overhear everything your coworkers say. But what if the downsides are offset by a majestic flowering of collaboration and communication and idea-generation? What if the open power is a magnificent abstraction that we’ve all been falsely disparaging?


The office is such a quintessential emblem of modern culture that it may seem it’s been around forever. But of course it hasn’t.

Nikil SAVAL: The economy of the United Position was based on farming and it was based on manufacturing. The role was almost an afterthought.

That’s Nikil Saval, the author of a work announced Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.

SAVAL: People speculated, “Well, bureaux are essentially paperwork factories. So we should just sort of array them in an assembly-line kind of formation.”

This meant a big room filled with long rows of desks and, scattered on the boundary, private parts for the managers. This mill prototype, which got its began in the late 19 th century, came to be known as the American plan. And it was standard office form for decades, at least in the U.S. But then, in the middle of the twentieth century, in Germany 😛 TAGEND

SAVAL: There were two brothers, the Schnelle friends, who began to wonder about the nature of the American plan. There was a sense that this was arbitrary, and there was no real reason to lay out an office in this way.

In 1958, Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle appointed the Quickborner consulting group with the idea of bringing some intentionality to modern power design.

SAVAL: And one of the relevant recommendations that came to them was that an office is not like a factory, it’s actually a different kind of workplace. And it requires its own sort of system. Maybe there isn’t a reason to have desks in sequences. Maybe there isn’t a rationale for people to have private roles at all, if basically the office is not about making things but it’s about raising the suggestions and about inducing communication among different people. And so over occasion they pioneered a perception that they called the burolandschaft, or “office landscape.” And it was essentially the first rightfully open plan office.

The idea was to create an office that was more collaborative and more egalitarian.

SAVAL: It gapes particularly tumultuous. You’d really have desks in knots and they just seem to be arranged in a pretty haphazard chassis. But, in fact, there was rigid planning around it in a way that would facilitate communication and the flow of people and meanings. And it eventually concluded its practice to England and the United Mood, and it was considered an incredible breakthrough.

A breakthrough perhaps — but the earliest open departments outlined grumbles same to the ones we examine today. Slews of complaints.

SAVAL: By not instituting a railing between parties, by not having openings, by not having any way of controlling the way announce traveled in the power, it stopped facilitating the thing it was supposed to facilitate, which was communication, because it became harder to communicate in an office environment where telephones were resounding off the hook, where you could hear typewriters across the room, and things like that. It wasn’t actually the utopian infinite that it promised to be. In fact, it was deeply debilitating in some way for the kind of work that people wanted to do.

Meanwhile, there was an American mentioned Robert Propst working in the field of the Herman Miller furniture company, in Michigan.

SAVAL: He was not himself trained as a designer. He was sort of like a freelance thinker.

Propst was intrigued by the “office landscape” idea — its openness and egalitarian goals — but he also appreciated its practical shortcomings.

SAVAL: And he decided to turn to professionals — to anthropologists, to social psychologists, to beings of that nature.

After some experiment, Propst came to the conclusion that individuals are — well, they’re someones. And they need more insure over their workspace. He and the designer George Nelson has come forward with a brand-new design in which each office worker would be surrounded by a suite of objects to help them work better. In 1964, Herman Miller debuted the “Action Office.”

SAVAL: There was a standing desk, a regular desk that you sit at, and a telephone booth.

Design reviewers enjoyed the Action Office.

SAVAL: It examined incredible, but it was very expensive and very few administrators is ready to devote this kind of money on their employees. So they went back to the drawing board and they tried to come up with something cheaper.

In 1968, Herman Miller secreted the Action Office 2.

SAVAL: And it was this three-walled space: these fabric-wrapped walls that were angled, and they were meant to enclose a suite of furniture. And it was meant to mitigate the various kinds of chaos that an open agency proposal might otherwise have.

You may know the Action Office 2 by its more generic name–

SAVAL: — which is the cubicle.

The cubicle promised a variety of advantages.

SAVAL: It’s meant to be very flexible, and it can form an impromptu conference room. And it was meant to divide up an open place proposal in a way to mitigate the kind of chaos that an open bureau mean or an office landscape might otherwise have. And it was incredibly well-received. It was replica by a number of furniture business. And soon it was spreading in positions everywhere.

But the cubicle could also be exploited.

SAVAL: It became a perfect tool for cramming more and more works into less and less space very inexpensively. The entire thought of what Propst was trying to do was to give a worker a room that we are able to switch — was turned into the exact opposite. It was clear that his hypothesi had become the most-loathed symbol of office life.

Indeed, the revolutionary, freedom-giving cubicle came to be seen as a sort of corporate explanation of solitary confinement. This left Robert Propst most unhappy.

SAVAL: And he denounced directors. He denounced people who were not instructed, that started what he announced barren, rat-hole-type environments.

Robert Propst, like the Schnelle friends before him, had not quite succeeded in creating a vibrant and efficient open role. Their new homes interposed new troubles: chaos in the first case, cubicles in the second. As with many problems that we humans try to correct — whether in bureau culture, or society at large — the adjustment turns out to be an overcorrection. Unintended significances leap out, and humble us. And yet: in this case, the fact is that most offices today are still open bureaux. Why are we accommodating on to this concept if it acquires so many people so sad?

TURBAN: If you’re ogling solely at a cost per square hoof, having an open role is cheaper.

BERNSTEIN: There are a lot of people, whether they’re overseers or works, who love the open office.

Bernstein admits that managers are primarily impressed by the cost savings of an open bureau. But some employees–

BERNSTEIN: Some works like it because they have visions of it being more vibrant, more interactive. That merriment , loud, experiential lieu they’re hoping for formerly you take down the walls and offset everyone able to see each other.

TURBAN: And there’s likewise been a big push around these disagreements that have emerged in social sciences. How do you start these random interactions between parties that provoke ability?

“Collision” is a term you examine a good deal in part blueprint and the design of public infinites generally. It’s the promise that unplanned meetings can lead to good things — between co-workers or neighbours, even strangers. Dialogues that otherwise wouldn’t have happened; the exchange of themes; unforeseen collaboration. Now, the office is plainly a different sort of space from the public square. The position is primarily concerned with productivity. We’d all like to be happy working in our roles, but is it maybe worth surrendering a bit of prosperity — and privacy, and so on — for the sake of higher productivity? After all, that’s what we’re being paid for.

BERNSTEIN: If you want to have a certain kind of interaction that’s deep, fertile in idea generation, or in something that requires us to have lots of “bandwidth” between one another, it’s nice to have that face-to-face interaction.

Ben WABER: Face-to-face discourses are so important.

That’s Ben Waber, he’s the C.E.O. of an organizational-analytics company called Humanyze.

WABER: What we do is use data about how people interact and collaborate at work. Think email, chat, convene data, but now too sensor data about how people interact in the real world. And we use that to understand certainly what goes on inside companies.

Humanyze has developed sociometric I.D. buttons, embedded with sensors, to captivate these data.

WABER: We have by far the largest data set on workplace interaction in the world.

And what do the data say about face-to-face communication?

WABER: In all of our study, that has consistently been the most predictive cause of almost any organizational outcome you can think of: act, its satisfaction, retention, you referred it. People did evolve for millions of years to interact in a face-to-face way. We are very used to small changes in facial expression, small changes in tone of voice and that’s particularly important in occupation frameworks where high levels of trust, especially as work comes increasingly complicated, and the things we build and draw together are more and more complex. Really having that trust and being able to convey really rich information is critical.

Bernstein and Turban too believe in the value of face-to-face communication.

TURBAN: Nuanced communication around, “Here’s a proposal I have. Now is a visualized I have about how this last find went.” That is a very rich and nuanced kind of communication and most literature suggests that face-to-face communication is much better at that.

BERNSTEIN: Sociologists have suggested for a long time that propinquity breeds interaction — propinquity being co-location, being close to one another.

TURBAN: The closer two people are together, the more likely they are to interact, the more likely they are to get married, the most likely they are to work together.

BERNSTEIN: And interaction being, we will have a conversation, we will actually get some kind of collaboration done between the two of us.

TURBAN: You can look at slouching shoulders, you can see what is their facial expression, and that gives a lot of information that is really hard to convey , no matter how good you are at emojis — and let me tell you, I am pretty good at emojis.

Okay, so face-to-face communication is important, at least for some purposes and on some aspects. And an open department is designed to facilitate more face-to-face communication. So … does it wreak? That was the central question of Bernstein and Turban’s study.

DUBNER: In your study, there are two companies that were transitioning to open departments. First of all, can you reveal the name of one or both of those companies?

BERNSTEIN: I can’t. In lineup to do this study, we had to agree to a height of confidentiality. I will say that we had a choice of locates to study and we chose the two that we belief would be most representative of the kind of work we were interested in, which is white-collar work in professional specifies, Fortune 500 companies.

DUBNER: Can you throw us some detail that helps us envision the kind of office and what the specific activities are?

BERNSTEIN: If “youre working in” a world installations amongst a series of roles like H.R. or investment or law or sales or marketing, this would describe your work setting.

DUBNER: And are you able describe, for the two companies that you studied, they moved to open bureaux — what was their configuration beforehand?

BERNSTEIN: Everyone was in cubicles. And then they to come to an open space that mostly resembled that, but really without the cubicle walls.

TURBAN: Those barricades went down, so you could see if John was sitting next to Sally before, and there was a wall between them, that John could see Sally and Sally could see John, and that was the big difference between the original and the office afterwards.

DUBNER: So, tell us about the experiment. I want to know all kinds of things, like how many parties become involved? Did they opt in or not? Was it randomized? How the data were gathered, and so on.

TURBAN: In the first study, we had 52 participates; in our second, “were having” 100 participants, and we wanted to measure communication before and after the move.

BERNSTEIN: We started with the most simple empirical puzzle we could start with, which was simply how much interaction takes region between private individuals before and after. We wanted to strictly see if this hypothesis of a vibrant open part were true.

TURBAN: So before the move, we afforded each of the participants sociometric badges.

These are the buttons we mentioned earlier, from Humanyze.

BERNSTEIN: So the product contains several sensors. One is a microphone. One is an I.R. sensor to show whether or not they’re facing another button. They have an accelerometer to show movement and they have a Bluetooth sensor to show location.

TURBAN: So you can get a data point which looks like: “John spoke with Sally for 25 times at 2 p.m.” But you don’t to be informed about what the content of the conversation is.

BERNSTEIN: A number of previous studies that have applied the sociometric medals have shown that we are very aware of them for the first, say, few minutes that we have them on, and after that we kind of forget they’re there.

DUBNER: You write that the microphone is only registering that people talk and not recording or monitoring “what theyre saying”. Do you think the employees who wore them be suggested that? I represent if I think there’s a one percent chance that my conglomerate is monitoring or recording what I’m saying, I’m quite likely to say less, yes?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it’s actually kind of a funny question, because in this case we really weren’t. But gape, we worded the permission shape as strongly as we could to ensure that they understood this was for research roles, and if they hadn’t believed it, they probably would have opted out.

DUBNER: What are we to stir of the fact that the data represents the people who opted in only? Because I’m just passing through my thought, if I were an employee and I’m told that there’s some kind of experiment going on with these smart beings from Harvard Business School and, nonetheless much you tell me or don’t, I intuit some or I figure out some or I guess some. And we’re moving to an open role and I remember, “Oh, humanity, I dislike the open department, and therefore I definitely want to participate in this experiment so that I can sabotage it by reacting exactly the opposite to seeing how I believe they want me to behave.” Is that too skeptical or scornful?

BERNSTEIN: Boy, you sound like one of my reviewers in the peer review process.

DUBNER: Sorry.

BERNSTEIN: It is a valid concern. Let me tell you what we’ve tried to do to alleviate it. The first thing is we’ve likened the individuals who opted in to wearing the button and those who did not to a series of demographics we got from the H.R. structures. And we don’t appreciate systematic inconsistencies there.

TURBAN: It is always possible when you’re doing social science research that someone makes a guess, whether it’s accurate or not, about what this study is trying to understand, and then takes a personal stand and says, “I’m going to stand for what’s right, and what’s right is cubicles! ” In that case, they would have to have done that for every day for two months. So it would have been a striking undertaking of perseverance. We don’t think that that’s what happened, but the open place factions are real, so, surely important to keep in mind.

In addition to all these data from the employees’ medals, the researchers could also measure each employee’s electronic communications — their emails and instant senses. Again, they were only asses this communication , not examining the content.

BERNSTEIN: And so what we were able to do is compare individuals’ face-to-face and electronic communication before and after the move from cubicles to open spaces in these two environments.

Okay, so the Bernstein-Turban study looked at two Fortune 500 companionships where employees had moved from cubicles to open departments. And they weighed every input we are to be able to about how the employees’ communication changed — face-to-face and electronic communications. What do you think happened?


DUBNER: So, you’ve done the study, two houses over a period of time with a number of parties to measure how their behaviour changes, generally. Tell us what you found.

TURBAN: So, the study had two main conclusions.

BERNSTEIN: We found that when these people moved from closed cubicles into the open position, interaction decreased.

TURBAN: Face-to-face communication decreased by about 70 percentage in both of our two studies. Conversely, that communication wasn’t altogether lost. Instead, the second result that we acquired was that communication actually increased practically, so people emailed more, I.M.’ed more.

DUBNER: How much of that reduction was compensated by electronic?

TURBAN: We considered an increase of 20-50 percentage of electronic communication. That represents more emails, more I.M.’s. And depending on how you think about what an email is worth, maybe you could say that they made up for it. Is an email worth five minutes of conversation, is it two minutes?

BERNSTEIN: It’s a little bit hard to say, because an email and an interaction may not be comparable in item.

TURBAN: Even if we assured an increase in the amount of virtual communication, which altogether made up for the face-to-face communication, what you probably learnt was a loss in richness of communications — the net information that’s being shown was actually less.

DUBNER: What can you tell us about how the open space feigned productivity and comfort?

BERNSTEIN: I’ll come out clean and say, we don’t have excellent data on performance, and we don’t have any data on satisfaction. We purposefully abode away from satisfaction; we just wanted to look at the interaction of individuals. In one of our two studies, we have anecdotally some information where the organization felt that actually performance had slumped of the consequences of this move.

I will say that, boy, if we think about this, there are probably lots of contexts that we can think of where more face-to-face interaction would be useful and a lot of frameworks in which we repute more face-to-face interaction would not be useful. And that’s where I’d actually prefer to make these discussions about productivity. That, at the least, to date administrators of dimension, directors of organizations have not thought about this being a trade off. They’ve presupposed cost and revenue go together. That may be true in some subset of surroundings, but in others that’s not going to be true.

DUBNER: What did the companies in your study do after you’d presented them with your determines?

BERNSTEIN: One of them has taken a step back from the open office. The other has been trying to constitute the open agency work by adding more closed cavities to it.

Okay, so an empirical study of open departments notes the fact that the primary benefit they are meant to confer — more face-to-face communication and the good things such communication can lead to — that it actually moves in the opposite direction! At least in the aggregate. To be fair, an open position is bound to be much better for certain tasks than others. And, most important, better for some people than for others. We’re not all the same. And some of us, I’m told — not me, but some of us — thrive in a potentially chattier department. But on counterbalance, it would appear that being put out in the open conducts most people to close themselves off a little. Why? You are likely answer that question for yourself. But Turban and Bernstein have some thoughts more. Here’s one: perhaps you don’t want to disturb other beings 😛 TAGEND

TURBAN: So, when you’re in an open position, your articulation carries. And I reflect beings decide extremely reasonably to say, “Well I could speak with Tammy, who’s three tables away. But if I talk to Tammy, I’m going to disrupt Larry and Katherine, and so I will move her a immediate theme instead.”

Or perhaps you compensate for the openness of the open power with behavior that sends a do-not-disturb signal.

BERNSTEIN: If everyone can see you, you want to signal to everyone that you are a hard worker, so you look intensely at your screen. Maybe you put on headphones to block the noise. Guess what? When we be pointed out that, we too tend to signal, “And please don’t interrupt me from my work.” Which may very well have been part of what happened in our studies here.

And then there’s what Ethan Bernstein calls “the transparency paradox.”

BERNSTEIN: Very simply, the transparency paradox is the idea that increasingly translucent, open, recognizable workplaces is generated by less transparent employees.

For instance: let’s say you’ve been really beneficial all morning; now you want to take a break. You want to check your fantasy-football lineup; you want to look up some recipes for dinner. But you don’t want everyone in the power, extremely your boss, to see what you’re doing. So: you do it regardless but you’re persistently appearing over your shoulder in case you need to shut down the fantasy-football or recipe tabs.

BERNSTEIN: That has implications for productivity, because we spend time on it. We waste energy on it. We deplete attempt on it. We tend to believe these days that we get our best work done when we can be our authentic souls. Very few of us get up on a stage in front of a large audience, which is somewhat of how some people encounter the open office, and feel we were able to our genuine selves.

Nicholas BLOOM: So, if I have an idea–

That’s the Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom.

BLOOM: — if I go discuss with my colleague or my director in an open power, I’m scared that other beings would discover. They may pass judgment or rumors can go around.

Bloom has studied this realm for years 😛 TAGEND

BLOOM: I act a good deal on firms and productivity, so what prepares some conglomerates more productive, most successful. What starts other houses little successful.

DUBNER: So let me ask you this: a recent article found that a couple of Fortune 500 companies who switched from cubicles to an open office hope with the hopes of increasing employee collaboration, that in fact the openness contributed significantly to less collaboration. So, knowing what you know about offices and people, does that surprise you?

BLOOM: Not genuinely. There’s a huge problem with open agencies in terms of collaboration. You have no privacy. Whereas if it’s in a slightly better closed environment it’s easier to discuss thoughts, to bounce things around.

Or consider the ultimate closed context: your own home.

BLOOM: One section of research I did that connected very much to the open position was the benefits of working from residence. So use from dwelling has a horrific honour amongst many beings. The nickname “shirking from home.” So I making a decision do a scientific study. So we got a large online travel agency to ask a division who wanted to work from residence. And we then had them randomize hires by even or curious birthdays into working at home versus carrying out activities in the office.

DUBNER: Now, this was a travel agency in China, redres?

BLOOM: Yes, so it’s Ctrip, which is China’s largest roam bureau. It’s very much like Expedia in the U.S. And stunningly what came out was, one of the biggest driving ingredients is, it’s simply much quieter directing from home. They deplored so often about the amount of sound and stoppage going on in the power. They’re all in an open office and they tell us about parties having lover questions, there’s a patty in the breakout office. The World Cup sweepstake. I necessitate, the most amazing was the woman that told us about her cubicle neighbour who’d have inexhaustible a discussion with her mum about medical problems, including cruel things like ingrown toenails and some kind of wart issue. I want what could be more confusing than that? Not amazingly, in such cases, the open position was destroying for her productivity.

DUBNER: So, you is my finding that overall, toiling from residence raises what exactly? Is it productivity? Is it happiness?

BLOOM: So we met cultivating from dwelling elevates productivity by 13 percentage. Which is big. That’s almost an extra day a week. So a ), much more productive, massively most productive, highway more than anyone prophesied. And b ), they seemed a lot happier; their attrition proportions, so how routinely they discontinue. Part of this was they didn’t have the travel and all the uncertainty. And they didn’t have to take sick daytimes off. But the other large-scale motorist is it’s just so much quieter at home.

DUBNER: You also do write, though, that one of the downsides of running from home was advertisement became less likely. Yes?

BLOOM: Yes. We don’t know why, but one contention is “out of sight, out of mind.” They merely get forgotten about. And another story would be that actually they need to develop skills of human capital and relationship capital, hence you need to be in the office to get that, to be encouraged. And then the third reason I hear, we talked to parties working at home and they’d say, “I don’t want to be promoted, because in order to be promoted, I need to come in the role more so.” I’m happy where I am. It’s not worth it.

DUBNER: “I exactly want them to leave me alone.”

BLOOM: I convey, the most surprising thing from the Ctrip working-from-home experiment was after the end of the nine months, Ctrip was so happy. They were saving about $2,000 per hire driving from home because they are more productive and they saved in place opening. So “theyre saying”, “Okay, everyone can now work from home.” And we discovered of the people in the experiment, about 50 percent of them who had been at home decided to come back into the power. And that seemed like an astounding decision because they’re now choosing to commute for something like 40 times each practice a daytime. And likewise since they are less productive in the department and approximately half their fee was bonus wage, they’re getting paid less. All in all we calculated, their go and compensate was kind of falling by 10 to 15 percentage. But they were still coming in. And the reason they told us is it was lonely at home.

So parties always joke the three great opponents of directing from dwelling is the fridge, the bed, and the television. And some people can handle that and others can’t. And you don’t genuinely know until you have tried it. So what happens is parties try it and some people enjoy it and are very productive. Great, they just stick with it, and others try and they dislike it and they come back into the office.

The more you learn about the productivity and joy of office workers in different settings, the more obvious it is that one key ingredient is often overlooked: hand-picked. Some employees genuinely might be better off at home; others might promote the cubicle; and some might thrive in an open department. You too have to acknowledge that no one environment will be ideal for every task.

Janet POGUE McLAURIN: So if you stop and think about: how do we invest our times? About half of our times is spent in focus mode, which means that we’re working alone; a bit over a part of our time is working with others in person; and about 20 percentage co-operates with others virtually.

That’s Janet Pogue McLaurin, from the world-wide design-and-architecture firm Gensler.

POGUE McLAURIN: I’m one of our world-wide workplace rehearse country leaders.

Given the variety of assignments required of the modern office worker–

POGUE McLAURIN: — you need the best environment for the task at hand. So, if you’re getting ready to go onto a conference call, instead of taking it at your table, you may go into a conference room. When “youve finished” that, you may go back to your desk to catch up on email. You may fraternize around the cafe area or even take a walking meeting outside. We need to have all these other study establishes at our disposal to be able to create a wonderful work experience.

That doesn’t seemed so hard, does it? So how do you cause that? Let’s start with the basics. Pogue McLaurin acknowledges that numerous open parts don’t address their key shortcoming.

POGUE McLAURIN: The biggest grievance that we see in open places that don’t work is the noise. And how do you mitigate sounds interruptions and distractions? And that can be noise as well as visual. Being able to design a infinite that zones the floor in smaller vicinities, that tries to get buffers between boisterou works. There’s architectural involvements we are going to be able do, with ceilings and materials and white noise, that may be added to the space. And it’s not about creating extremely gentle an environment — that can be just as ineffective as a boisterou environ. You truly want to have enough buzz and power, but really not hear every word.

You likewise want to account for what economists announce heterogeneous advantages, and what normal people call individual choice.

POGUE McLAURIN: Choice is one of the key drivers of effective workspace, and we have found that the most innovative firms actually furnish twice as much choice and practise on that choice than non-innovative firms do. And alternative is really around autonomy, about when and where to work. It could be as simple as having a choice of being able to do focus work in the morning or being able to work at home a daylight, or in another work give in the office.

To that mission , no two employees are exactly alike — and, more important , no two companies are alike either.

POGUE McLAURIN: I think some common missteps that organizations do is they try to copy someone else’s design. So if you think it’s a cool meaning of something that you participated on the west coast, let’s say it’s a tech firm, and you’re not even a tech house, and you’re sitting here on the east coast and you try to precisely duplicate it verbatim, it doesn’t work. It’s got to reflect how their own organizations directs and the purpose and brand and parish that you’re a part of.

So oftentimes, corporations would start to adopt what other organizations are doing and say, “Yes, that will save us seat, so let’s adopt it, ” but they’re missing out by not specifying all these other rooms to balance. So they miss its efficiency and effectiveness without creating all the other work directs that people need in order to be truly productive.

It’s worth noting that Janet Pogue McLaurin, a principal with a design-and-architecture firm, is arguing that the key to a successful office is: intend and building. But it’s also worth noting that her firm has done a great deal of research in all different kinds of offices, all different kinds of fellowships, all over the world.

POGUE McLAURIN: We’ve done several studies in the U.S. and the U.K. But we’ve also done Latin american countries, Asia, Countries of the middle east and we’re exactly ending research studies in Germany.

So: what’s her prognosis for the long-maligned open place?

POGUE McLAURIN: The open place is not dead. Oftentimes people say, “Which is better: private power or open contrive? ” We assessed different kinds of individual working conditions, and what we’ve saw is that if you solve for design , interference, and be made available to beings and natural resources, they play equally, and one is essentially not better than the other. And the best open intention can be as effective as a private one. And that was a surprise. I desire data where reference is tells you something unexpected.

So do we, Janet Pogue McLaurin. So do we.


Freakonomics Radio is produced by Stitcher and Dubner Productions. This escapade was produced by Rebecca Lee Douglas. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Harry Huggins, Zack Lapinski, Matt Hickey, Corinne Wallace, and Daphne Chen. We had assist the coming week from Nellie Osborne. Our theme song is “Mr. Fortune, ” by the Hitchhikers; all the other music was composed by Luis Guerra. You can subscribe to Freakonomics Radio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode 😛 TAGEND


Ethan Bernstein, Edward W. Conard Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Nicholas Bloom, economist at Stanford University. Janet Pogue McLaurin, principal at Gensler. Nikil Saval, scribe and correspondent. Stephen Turban, novelist and analytics fellow at McKinsey& Company. Ben Waber, chairman and C.E.O. of Humanyze.


Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment, ” Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying( 2013 ). “The Impact of the Open Workspace on Human Collaboration, ” Ethan Bernstein, Stephen Turban( 2018 ). The Office: A Facility Based on Change by Robert Propst( Herman Miller 1968 ). Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval( Anchor 2014 ).


Are We in a Mattress-Store Bubble ?” Freakonomics Radio( 2016 ). “Time to Can be taken the Toilet, ” Freakonomics Radio( 2014 ).

The post Yes, the Open Office Is Terrible — But It Doesn’t Have to Be( Ep. 358 Rebroadcast ) loomed first on Freakonomics.

Read more:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *