Collaborative workspaces, design flaw or ingenious?

No doubt, by now you’ve formed a very hard opinion and visual on what it means to work in an office, whether it is a large, corporate type , several –floored sky-scraping building or something that resembles a Dunder Mifflinesque single floor office that occupies a suite in a plaza.

What is it that you envision? Rows of cubicles riddled with weary workers who pop up occasionally, like the gopher-game at the fair? Or, perhaps it is a few clerks feverishly typing outside a never ending wall of private offices?  Either way, it may be time to change your thoughts.

Gone are the days of cubicle farms, with walls no one could see over and only one way in and out.  Consistently, more and more companies are adopting a collaborative workspace ideology in hopes that it will aid in team camaraderie and even enhance daily output and production.

One of the most well-known case studies in this area comes from Google. No, not the search function, but Google, the Multi-billion dollar web conglomerate, in what is known as Googleplex.  Their specific concept stems from the philosophy that they are in fact, a team. Teams work together and need to be accessible at all times.  In addition, the concept promotes the use of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, which are all essential in today’s wireless world.

That said, many people still feel like all that glitters is not gold, in the sense that it may be shiny and new, but maybe the old way worked just as well? In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That sentiment in particular seems to be commonplace among the aging demographic of the workforce.  In speaking with some of our own designers, who have worked on several projects locally, I’ve found that much of the same opinion is echoed. (Either Pro or Con)

For instance, in an open work environment, you really always know what’s going on (personally or otherwise). The con to that? You really always know what’s going on.  Being in a collaborative environment is great when needing immediate help or assistance with something, it helps with the social environment, on an appropriate level of course.  Also, it is favored among bosses and team leaders for a variety of reasons, one being that if they employ the type of person that requires a bit more structure in their daily routine, it really can keep them on their toes and remain focused, as there really is nowhere to hide (insert evil laugh).

All of that said, there are some definite drawbacks, as expressed by our own team.  Some of the complaints are that these types of environments tend to be a bit noisier, which interferes with concentration.  Even more so, the noise factor is an issue when trying to hear a conference call or webinar.  And finally, it really does aid in social interaction, when maybe too much is a bad thing.

From my observation, it seems as though the jury is still out, but whether you love them or hate them, open space work environments are here to stay.

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