Office Space

April 12, 2013 | By Felicity Cull

In the past few weeks, 10Collective have been moving around the furniture in our office.

We used to have a central bunch of desks (see the pic above) so we worked closely and intimately, which was great but also meant we were sometimes yelling over each other. We have now moved further away from each other and used more of our lovely space.

This has got us thinking about how workspaces impact our productivity.

Earlier in the year, Forbes posted this slideshow, a collection of user-generated photos of creative workspaces around the world. Some are absolutely gorgeous and some seem ridiculous wastes of space (also check out slide nine for the photo that appears alongside the word ‘douchebags’ in the dictionary) but they seem to suggest that cubicle mazes like the picture above are a thing of the past.

However, open plan offices are controversial. In a similar article showing great new ‘high performance office spaces’ on Harvard Business Review, the comment section displays dislike of these new open spaces with lots of activity hubs, colour and few walls. A user wrote “No offices, no hierarchy, everyone in identical face-to face workstations with no screening… It is indeed a great place to hang out, network and socialise but an absolutely appalling working environment for concentrating and getting anything done. I am not aware of a staff member (over 30) who is happy.  Offices and cube farms may be very last century and undoubtedly have their limitations – but this new environment is a stressful and risk-inducing monstrosity.”

It’s true that cubicles provided private spaces. Quiet private spaces mean less distractions. But does this really help productivity? According to many, yes – for introverts.

University of Queensland’s Business School is currently researching how office space impacts productivity. Head researcher Dr Remi Ayoko said that early findings show that communication is easy in new open plan offices but there is also a higher chance of conflict and an increase in noise and distraction (by the way, they’re looking for businesses to take part in the study, if you’re interested).

Dr Ayoko also found that workers who personalised their workspaces tended to feel more productive in their workspace. So, if you’re feeling terrible about your open plan office, bring in your novelty mugs and pictures of your cat (or kids, I guess).

Personally, we love our new more open space. We love our space anyway – not that many people get to work in a space that’s full of so many gorgeous things – but moving things around and being responsive to our feelings about the space has been a great way to feel rejuvenated about our work.