Recruiters
June 18, 2020

From Open Plan Offices To Remote Work: Pros and Cons

Open offices were the gateway to the future before Covid-19 hit, now they are being rethought entirely in a world where remote work has become the norm and efficiency is being thought of in entirely new terms.
Source: Unsplash

Open offices have become a conceptual part of modern working culture. Older cube settings still exist, but especially for startups and media companies, a new architecture that catalyzes collaboration is becoming the norm. Walking into these environments is supposed to feel inviting, warm, and productive. The point of open office plans is to increase the interconnectivity of teams, to produce less gatekeeping, and to increase work/life flow for employees. Open offices are supposed to erase that old working culture of compartmentalization and open things up—including dialogue.

While the idea seems pleasant enough, it doesn’t always lead to the best real-time results. A 2019 criticism from Harvard Business Review states the following:

         “But although knowledge workers are influenced by this architecture, they decide, individually and collectively, when to interact. Even in open spaces with colleagues in close proximity, people who want to eschew interactions have an amazing capacity to do so.”

Thus, it seems that with all of the new furniture and common spaces to share with fellow employees, there are really just more ways for employees to avoid one another now. It is as though when human nature takes its course and people want to avoid one another no matter what the layout of the office looks like—they will.

Technology has a lot to do with this. Our reliance on tools like Google Calendar, Outlook, and other messaging tools that employees and workers use daily, makes it easier to avoid face-to-face interactions. The modern workplace has become one where we can rationalize to ourselves that introversion is okay, as more people are doing it. But it does take away from some of that creative brainstorming that might result if employees talked to one another in the break room or kitchen area instead of being glued to a phone screen.

Smartphones as well represent distractions in the workplace. The University of Southern California’s ADHD study in 2018 found that there is a statistically significant association between the amount of time teenagers spend on mobile devices and developing symptoms of attention deficit disorder later in life. The same could very well be true for adults who up their smartphone usage.

Remote working as an alternative

Regardless, we are currently living in a post-pandemic world, where economies and workplaces are just starting to re-open. But even as managers and planners try to understand how getting back to office life will ever be possible again, the shift to remote work has already begun and Twitter’s announcement that employees can work remotely permanently, more organizations have also started to follow suit—cutting their costs and getting with the times.

Remote working, as opposed to open offices, allows individuals to take breaks. HBR reports that this can be the greatest strength in terms of productivity. Even in open office environments, you can still see everyone you’re working with and sometimes escaping to get some fresh air or get re-centered can feel impossible or like judgment is being passed from other co-workers.

Remote working does have its issue with isolation however. Remote workers are twice as likely to report a feeling of loneliness than their office counterparts. So in terms of long term sustainability it doesn’t seem like there is a clear cut winner, just lots of tweaking and adjustments that need to be made to optimize efficiency.

TagsOpen Plan OfficeRemote Work
Michael Robbins
Writer
Michael is a writer that helps organizations align their mission and values to a wide audience.

Related Articles

Back
RecruitersJune 18, 2020
From Open Plan Offices To Remote Work: Pros and Cons
Open offices were the gateway to the future before Covid-19 hit, now they are being rethought entirely in a world where remote work has become the norm and efficiency is being thought of in entirely new terms.

Open offices have become a conceptual part of modern working culture. Older cube settings still exist, but especially for startups and media companies, a new architecture that catalyzes collaboration is becoming the norm. Walking into these environments is supposed to feel inviting, warm, and productive. The point of open office plans is to increase the interconnectivity of teams, to produce less gatekeeping, and to increase work/life flow for employees. Open offices are supposed to erase that old working culture of compartmentalization and open things up—including dialogue.

While the idea seems pleasant enough, it doesn’t always lead to the best real-time results. A 2019 criticism from Harvard Business Review states the following:

         “But although knowledge workers are influenced by this architecture, they decide, individually and collectively, when to interact. Even in open spaces with colleagues in close proximity, people who want to eschew interactions have an amazing capacity to do so.”

Thus, it seems that with all of the new furniture and common spaces to share with fellow employees, there are really just more ways for employees to avoid one another now. It is as though when human nature takes its course and people want to avoid one another no matter what the layout of the office looks like—they will.

Technology has a lot to do with this. Our reliance on tools like Google Calendar, Outlook, and other messaging tools that employees and workers use daily, makes it easier to avoid face-to-face interactions. The modern workplace has become one where we can rationalize to ourselves that introversion is okay, as more people are doing it. But it does take away from some of that creative brainstorming that might result if employees talked to one another in the break room or kitchen area instead of being glued to a phone screen.

Smartphones as well represent distractions in the workplace. The University of Southern California’s ADHD study in 2018 found that there is a statistically significant association between the amount of time teenagers spend on mobile devices and developing symptoms of attention deficit disorder later in life. The same could very well be true for adults who up their smartphone usage.

Remote working as an alternative

Regardless, we are currently living in a post-pandemic world, where economies and workplaces are just starting to re-open. But even as managers and planners try to understand how getting back to office life will ever be possible again, the shift to remote work has already begun and Twitter’s announcement that employees can work remotely permanently, more organizations have also started to follow suit—cutting their costs and getting with the times.

Remote working, as opposed to open offices, allows individuals to take breaks. HBR reports that this can be the greatest strength in terms of productivity. Even in open office environments, you can still see everyone you’re working with and sometimes escaping to get some fresh air or get re-centered can feel impossible or like judgment is being passed from other co-workers.

Remote working does have its issue with isolation however. Remote workers are twice as likely to report a feeling of loneliness than their office counterparts. So in terms of long term sustainability it doesn’t seem like there is a clear cut winner, just lots of tweaking and adjustments that need to be made to optimize efficiency.

Open Plan Office
Remote Work
About the author
Michael Robbins -Writer
Michael is a writer that helps organizations align their mission and values to a wide audience.

Related Articles