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Shifting the Conversation on Open Offices

Overheard at a recent family gathering: “Open offices are the pits.” I don’t know what precipitated the comment, but the affirmative chorus of rants that followed made clear that workspaces make for safe social discourse.
Perhaps we’re just a bunch of introverts, but the consensus was that open offices are too lacking in privacy. Putting on my No Jitter/Enterprise Connect/WorkSpace Connect hat, I suggested that open offices are vital for building collaborative cultures and more productive work environments. To say I was roundly scoffed at would be an understatement. Open offices are about nothing more than doing more with less… in this case, more people + less space = better margins, I heard.
Truth be told, we hope the corporate rationale for embracing open offices is a balanced mix accounting for employee experience and business needs, including those financial in nature. And we fear for companies making decisions solely on a cost-savings basis -- ultimately, end results won’t match the desired outcome.
My colleague, Eric Krapf, touches on this same issue in his recent blog post, “Giving Hotdesking the Cold Shoulder,” over on our WorkSpace Connect event site. While not every open office includes hotdesking, Eric crystallizes the overarching issue as one being about corporate attitude. The danger, as he wrote, comes when companies treat employees “as just a mass of undifferentiated rear ends that have to be placed into a mass of undifferentiated chairs each day.”
He offered a reasonable suggestion (I think so, at least) on how companies might tamp down the negativism and make hotdesking -- and open offices at large -- a workable solution for all: By policy, employees who work in the office three or more days a week aren’t eligible for the hotdesking system; those who come into the office one or two days a week, must hotdesk. “If this arrangement can save the company money, those funds may be available to invest in other workplace solutions or amenities beneficial to everyone,” he wrote.
His point being, whether employees are destined for hotdesks or assigned spaces, everybody has to be made to feel valued. And that means it must be a top priority to conquer the negativism among employees that so often comes along with open offices. As Eric concluded in his post: “… if an enterprise is willing to work with its employees to balance everyone’s needs -- workers as well as corporate bean-counters -- there could be a way to use these concepts effectively without damaging the workplace environment.”
To think that the onus of solving this challenge falls on any one group would be another mistake. We think it takes the concerted effort of leaders in enterprise IT, real estate/facilities, and people management. To that end, we’re hosting our first-ever event focused on this intersection and the future of workspaces, and we hope you can join us.
WorkSpace Connect, taking place Sept. 9 to 11 in Dallas, will bring together professionals of diverse corporate disciplines for mutual learning, hands-on experience, and insight on how to craft a cohesive strategy for technology-enabled, people-friendly office spaces. We’ve got a great lineup of speakers, including keynoter Joe Park, chief digital architect and vice president of associate digital experience at Walmart, and a two-day slate of cross-discipline programming -- plus a Business Hall with potential partners for your workspace initiatives.
And today is the best day to register, before our Advance Rate comes to an end. As a No Jitter reader, you can even save $200 off the price of attendance. Sign yourself up with your real estate/facilities and HR colleagues now, using the code NJPOSTS!