Clear­ing air on open space pro­duc­tiv­ity

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - CAREERS - Janita Singh

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

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