Office Spaces

May 31, 2018

Is your office killing your productivity? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Pete Bacevice, a workplace researcher at the global design firm HLW and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. They talk through how to survive in an open office, deploy teams across multiple buildings, and ask for a better workspace.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at dearhbr@hbr.org.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan by Brandi Pearce and Pamela Hinds — “Despite optimistic assertions about the benefits of open office space, outcomes are mixed. In some cases, open-plan office designs are reported to increase collaboration, employee satisfaction, and communication, but in others these new spaces are criticized for creating distractions, reducing privacy and autonomy, and undermining employee motivation and satisfaction.”

The New Yorker: The Open-Office Trap by Maria Konnikova — “An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health. In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace. Workers in two-person offices took an average of fifty per cent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of sixty-two per cent more.”

HBR: 7 Factors of Great Office Design by Peter Bacevice, Liz Burow, and Mat Triebner — “The design and outfitting of workspace is a major capital investment for any organization that can affect a number of business outcomes, including productivity, employee satisfaction, engagement, talent recruitment, and brand impact. Given the myriad ways to design and plan a space, leaders should approach workplace design in a strategic way. Imitating the latest fads start-ups are adopting won’t necessarily get you the results your company desires; asking the right questions — and, above all, listening to employees’ answers — will.”

HBR: Why You Should Rotate Office Seating Assignments — “Interestingly, the change to employees’ physical space seemed to boost performance even more than did another switch the company made (which Lee also studied), from individual incentives to fixed wages. In addition, the effect generated by the relocation was quick—the rise in cross-category deals occurred within a month—and it increased throughout the 80 days postmove.”

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