Clearing air on open space productivity
OPEN-PLAN offices might inspire employees to collaborate more but they’re also one of the biggest killers of productivity, according to authors Gaia and Andrew Grant.
The pair have released a new book, The Innovation Race, that examines how to create a culture that supports innovation.
In an open-plan office, workers are interrupted on average every 11 minutes by their co-workers, says Gaia, also a researcher and lecturer at Sydney University Business School.
She says this is a problem for modern workers given that it takes 25 minutes to get back into a creative and engaged work flow and perform to their full potential.
The authors, who are also co-authors of the bestseller Who Killed Creativity and directors of Tirian Interna- tional Consultancy, say that simply accommodating a large group of people in one area does not ensure innovation.
“Just because people are in close proximity to one another, it doesn’t mean they will be willing and open to share ideas,’’ Andrew says.
“The main problem with open working spaces is that there are times when you really need to be able to focus on a task without distractions and open offices aren’t necessarily conducive to that.
“If we are constantly getting interruptions, we can never reach that optimum level of productivity.”
For the open office concept to work, a happy balance needs to be reached.
The pair says well-designed contemporary open offices should have alcoves or private rooms and areas where people can go to focus on a task if needed – as well as meeting spaces where people can come together to collaborate.
“Everyone has a different psychological make-up and different cognitive preferences – some have been found to be more ‘focused’, while some tend to be ‘mind wanderers’ – so working environments will need to suit both styles,’’ Gaia says.
“There will obviously need to be a smart blend of privacy for focus and open areas to encourage connection between people.”
Gaia says the main focus should be on building connected, creative communities.
“It will mean setting up specific systems and putting structures in place that actively foster collaboration, rather than simply expecting creative collaboration to take place naturally. See tirian.com or theinnovation-race.com
Andrew and Gaia Grant have co-authored a new book titled