Are today’s office workscapes helping or hurting?

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I am involved in a medium-term research push on the workplace and the rise of the open office plan, and so I was eager to look at the results of the Ideapaint Functional Workplace Survey that investigates the relationship between the workscape — workplace design and its shaping of the work being done — and productivity and engagement.

Some of the high-level findings (from the website):

  1. traditional cubicle/private office blended workscape remains most common:
    •    34% report traditional office
    •    9% in open office
    •    59% say their office is ‘noisy’ and 47% identify ‘interruptions’ as a problem
    •    49% report conference rooms as the only space for meeting and coworking, and they are hard to reserve
    •   56% say they only have access to 1-3 such coworking spaces at work.
  2. workers want more coworking
    •    54% said it was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to facilitate more ‘collaborative’ work environment
    •    54% prefer a mix of private offices and open space
    •    23% work in setting of only cubicles or only private offices
    •    31% want more space for coworking
    •    1/3 want more social spaces for casual conversations
  3. work/life balance remains a challenge
    •    57% say they are required to be available outside of standard working hours
    •    63% are resigned to the new normal
    •    62% want on-site perks so that longer hours are more tolerable
    •    35% consider  themselves workaholics
    •    79% hope that the next generations will have better work/life balances
  4. Millennials want a more modern workscape, but a cleaner split
    •    millennials are now 25% of the US workforce
    •    30% of millennials find demands for work outside of standard working hours ‘unacceptable’
    •    56% believe that the 24/7 always-on work/life model is here to stay
    •    58% believe it is important to limit work communications after hours

I intend to read the full report, and ask some questions of Dr. Marla Gottschalk, an industrial and organizational psychologist who worked with Ideapaint on the report. But at the highest level, the survey shows that we are in the early days of a shift away from conventional cubical/private office style workscapes, and moving slowing toward something else, something more open, more engaging (distracting and noisy, too) and perhaps more social and geared toward working together instead of apart. The report seems to set the stage for a discussion on where our time and energies should be directed when we are in the office, and the fact that work has been bleeding into our time outside the office, as well.