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The quiet office revolution

by administrator on January 18, 2013

For years, those leading workplace change developments have pushed for more openness in the workplace  -  less walls, less offices, less divisions and barriers; all aimed at improving so-called critical missing workplace ingredients for success, such as interaction, collaboration, accessibility and creativity.  The office buzz if you like.

Nowadays, most of us work in open workspace with minimal walls and barriers.  They still might not be the most creative or inspiring environments (corporate blues and greys still dominate many modern workplaces) – but we now get to see, hear and speak to each other much, much more.  Great!  Or is it?

Have we gone too far?  Or at least pursued one aspect to the cost of other office dynamics and considerations?

Whilst commonly reporting increases in collaboration and interaction, feedback from many recent post-implementation evaluations (POEs) also report that noise, distraction, interruption and lack of privacy as key worsening issues that impact effective working.

So maybe it’s time for another office trend or revolution, but this time a quiet one!  The signs all point to an increased demand for office elements like phone booths, privacy sofas, feature acoustic screening and even ‘quiet’ work areas (like the train carriage) where phones and conversations are banned.  Perhaps curtains and shag pile carpets will become the latest in-vogue office design options. Whenever I visit an airport lounge or a Regus-type  office, it is always the more private work settings that get taken first.  They are not space-hungry like the big offices of yesterday, but typically very space efficient, very comfortable and the product of sensible but creative office design.  Perhaps the future will see us all having the choice of the use of personal privacy pods to use as a work base, adjacent to more open, collaborative work settings for when we need  it.  We can make the choice, but perhaps it’s a better choice than we might have now.  A reversal of sorts, but also a step in a new direction.  And like any quiet revolution, it may already be happening.

What do others think?  Is it time to invest your money in the office phone booth or office shag-pile industry? Imagine the options for personalization and fun!  Will such trends enable the office to compete better with the comfort and intimacy of working from home – and attract more nomads back to the office as many organisations desire?  What would be your favourite office-setting choice be if you had access to such quieter and cosier options?

Adryan Bell, January 2013


Adryan, you raise some interesting points. I don’t think the issue of the open plan buzzy office versus more landscaped office with nooks, crannies and quiet spaces has yet been resolved. And I think this comes down to psychological factors such as personality, culture, motivation, experience and expectations – factors which are often over-looked by designers. Susan Cain has explained to us the Power of Introverts as leaders and I believe our preference for different types of space is also affected by our psychological make-up. At one extreme, introverts prefer solitude and quiet spaces whereas extroverts seek social interaction and prefer buzz. Add, organisational culture and organisational structure into the mix and it becomes very difficult to create a “one size fits all” solution. The answer is flexibility – the choice of when and where to work backed up by trust. I touch on this in my recent blog: http://workplaceunlimited.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/why-is-there-resistance-to-agile-working.html

2013-03-12 16:22:19 UTC by oseland
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