Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace. – The Washington Post

Posted from WordPress for Android


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    58% of High-Performance Employees Say They Need More Quiet Work Spaces

    Behold the open industrial office space. At one moment, it feels like such a hip environment, bustling with easy communication and collaboration, innovation and headphones just behind every monitor. At another moment, the open office is the loudest, most annoying, distracting and unproductive environment one can imagine. What if the open industrial office is just part of a larger misguided fantasy? What if this office style is hurting our employees working on the hardest problems — our high-performance employees (HPEs)?

    58% of high-performance employees say they need more quiet work spaces

    What if the open industrial office is just part of a larger misguided fantasy? What if this office style is hurting our employees working on the hardest problems—our high-performance employees (HPEs)? What if the open office is causing retention problems, and affecting the quality of our end products?

    As I outlined in my HPE article, executives and high-performance employees tend to optimize against completely different trade and life principles—they generally have very different views of the world. This disconnect shows itself very clearly in the environmental conditions of our creative and technical offices.

    My latest anonymous survey* shows that 58% of HPEs need more private spaces for problem solving, and 54% of HPEs find their office environment “too distracting.”

    Executive Idealism vs Reality

    Without struggling to understand the principles of the HPE, executives risk building the most common environment for potential success, i.e. the easy and unimaginative solution rooted in a detached understanding of innovation as something hatched by fits of random social interaction and illumination—as opposed to understanding innovation as a sustainable and persistent framework that is cultivated, shepherded, maintained and reproduced over long periods of time.

    In open environments, executives imagine social collaboration and surreal collision between disparate disciplines. Executives wish for the the next magical idea born from the random chaos of the corporate universe. To executives, easy access means easy sharing and easy success; we should always be able to yell at our coworkers within 25 feet whenever the mood strikes.

    Everyday Problem Solving vs Pure Innovation

    In contrast to many romanticized narratives, most HPE work involves just showing up every day and being consistent. Executives need to clearly separate everyday problem solving from the seeds of pure innovation.

    The average day of the HPE is spent solving really hard problems related to an innovative product, idea or company direction. This means remaining focused for long hours in support of existing and future creatives/hardware/software/designs/narratives. HPEs are usually cranking on a days-long task, following through on a contract they made with peers or executives. HPEs overwhelmingly need quiet and calm space in order to efficiently complete their daily work.

    What do these numbers mean?

    58% of HPEs need more private spaces for problem solving, and 54% of HPEs find their office environment “too distracting.”

    1) Distractions kill HPE productivity.
    2) Poor productivity hurts our products and time-to-market.
    3) Generally speaking, our offices are too open.
    4) We need to slow down and listen to our people.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Know the soul of the high-performance employee, then we can build the 10,000 things.
    Well-being and retention can only come through understanding.

    Who are the HPEs?

    Rather than being tasked with doing the most, high-performance employees (HPEs) are asked to solve the hardest problems in every company. They are the technicians, builders, designers, creatives, culture shapers, narrators and innovators. Together they erect product and industry across the globe. They are the focus of international recruiting, yet they remain largely misunderstood and poorly cared for. Certainly they are paid very well, but retention and morale trends are concerning.

    HPEs are the direct conduit between executive/management direction and the actual paying customer. For example, in a software or tech company they would be:

    Software Engineers
    Data Scientists
    Visual Designers
    Structural & 3-D Prototype Designers
    Narrative Developers

    Just let me be the best.

    HPEs are driven by trade and craft. They want to be surrounded by the peers, process and structure to do their very best work. They have a life-long relationship with raw technical skills that directly translate into digital/physical products.

    It’s all very simple: the disposition and laser-focus required to become an HPE usually come at the expense of time spent debating, negotiating and evangelizing. Furthermore, it’s quite obvious that executives and HPEs tend to optimize against completely different career and trade principles—this cannot be understated.

    The spirit of the HPE is so unique that it requires exceptional care and thought. Spurred by the explosion in global micro-innovation, executives around the world are scrambling to understand what makes these beautiful people thrive and perform. Many executives are totally lost, simply because they cannot understand the HPE mind.

    Treat the Symptoms

    As the business world becomes faster and faster, retention and morale are becoming the major issues with HPEs. The raw cost of losing employees is staggering, and that cost is magnified with HPEs—as key losses can cause acute impacts on innovation, and even spiral into corporate culture disasters.

    Always predictable, executives are approaching the issue much like western medicine approaches individual health—treat the symptoms of disease, not the cause:

    Employees are leaving early → let’s offer free dinner
    Employees are arriving late → let’s offer free breakfast
    Employees are tired → let’s install an espresso bar
    Morale is low → let’s install video game consoles
    Employees are unhealthy → let’s give away free gym membership

    The problem is that HPEs are not average people. They are not primarily motivated by perks.

    What do HPEs really need?

    As low HPE retention remains a constant threat in technical industries, companies must cultivate and understand the mastery and purity of trade in order to manage retention and cultivate morale. The following can serve as a solid foundation:

    Technical Competency of Direct Managers
    Visual/Written Communication vs Spoken Word
    Calm Space
    Process, Time Constraints & Predictable Delivery Cycles
    The Best Self-Selected Equipment
    Community Involvement & Evangelism

    Technical Competency of Direct Managers

    Technical ability of direct managers may be the most important factor for morale and retention with high-performance employees. It’s so obvious. HPEs want to work with other experts, period. As for corporate productivity concerns, it’s also obvious that two experts working together—even if their areas of specialization are different—is exponentially more effective than the expert jostling with the novice.

    Just like the innovative record producer working with the musician, if management and executives can stay extremely close to the reality and spirit of their HPEs, the sky is the limit. Continuing these close relationships over long periods of time is the key to sustainable innovation.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open-Plan Offices Kill Productivity, According to Science

    A huge study of 40,000+ workers in 300+ companies revealed that open-plan offices don’t work.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open Offices Make You Less Open

    On Spatial Boundaries and Face-to-Face Interaction

    Why do companies deploy open office layouts? A major justification is the idea that removing spatial boundaries between colleagues will generate increased collaboration and smarter collective intelligence.

    But when researchers turned their attention to the specific impact of open offices on interaction, the results were mixed. Perhaps troubled by this inconsistency, Bernstein and Turban decided to get to the bottom of this issue.

    Here’s a summary of what they found:

    Contrary to what’s predicted by the sociological literature, the 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout.

    At the same time, the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication. After the redesign, participants sent 56% more emails (and were cc’d 41% more times), and the number of IM messages sent increased by 67%.

    Not surprisingly, this shift from face-to-face to electronic interaction made employees less effective.

    What is surprising, however, is the fact that face-to-face interactions declined so sharply in the first place.

    In this study, removing barriers instead decreased these interactions while increasing the amount of electronic distraction.

    The negative impact is the same — more interruptions = less deep work = poor return on investment in the organization’s attention capital

    When you remove any semblance of structure to human interaction, people get overloaded and withdrawal into private, electronic cocoons.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *