Sunday, June 24, 2007

Distracted workers will affect profitability

Open vs. closed office design ...

"Small businesses often enjoy a family feeling with a core of loyal and highly motivated employees. Many larger firms envy this kind of organizational climate. But research is showing that dedicated staff might not be enough, and that worker distractions might erode the bottom line.

The trend in office design over the last 20 years has moved away from dedicated space to the open office concept, an innovation adopted by many small- and medium-sized firms as they followed the trends impacting larger firms. Now it appears that the open office concept may not be as ideal as originally thought, particularly when considering worker distractions and their impact on the bottom line.

The adoption of the open office concept, usually employing a large workspace filled with desks or cubicles, developed out of a rethinking of what work organization should be, and how organizations should be run. The open office is much more democratic. Gone are many of the trappings of luxury or status that often accompanied dedicated office spaces.

While the executives of most firms still enjoy the privacy and luxuries afforded to the executive suite (which usually includes more than just the key to the executive washroom) the rank and file staff are often relegated to an open office. Research has shown that the executive offices are much larger than the workspace given to the typical worker, which averages only about six square meters compared to nearly 17 square metres for the executive.

A key strength of the open office was believed to be enhanced communication, which is the hallmark of any successful organization. The egalitarian nature of the layout and furnishings of such spaces was expected to lead to more of a team orientation, resulting in a more cohesive work force.

However, the open office concept also has a number of weaknesses, some of which are coming to light years later under scientific scrutiny. Such spaces offer little privacy, resulting in stifled interaction and increased levels of office gossip."    (Continued via TheChronicleHerald.ca)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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