Open Space Environments: Why Not?

Interesting feature on a NY Times article today that highlights the office space features of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.  It talks about”

1. “One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.””

2. “Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.”

3. “the model evolved to a mix of 60 percent open and 40 percent closed, with a variety of open and closed “retreat” spaces that enable different personalities to find the work environments they need.”

Then at Russell Investment:

1. “There are no private offices; the chief executive occupies an ordinary desk along a row of other ordinary desks.”

2. ” the leased square feet per employee is 30 percent less than in the former office building.”

3. “Some employees don’t even claim permanent workspaces; they call themselves free-deskers, and they simply take whatever is available each day — with a preference, naturally, for good views and proximity to their teams. Some of them are on the road more than they roost in the home office, so the company saves by not having to maintain empty space in their absence.”

4. “the environment has engineered a subtle but significant shift in the firm’s culture, by eliminating the office as a status symbol.”

At R.C. Hedreen Company, it’s still a little traditional:

1. “Collaborative spaces are provided for creative teamwork, but the traditional offices remain the executives’ home ports.”

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation new digs, “Some 86 percent called it an “inspiring” environment, and 89 percent confirmed that the buildings support informal collaboration. While these are high approval ratings, one wonders why — for a half-billion dollars — they shouldn’t be closer to unanimous.”  I agree that it takes time for certain people to adapt to new environments.  But seeing how collaboration & teamwork are promoted in an open environment concept especially in the tech companies, I think it’s only a matter of time when the new office environment will be unanimously approved by companies from different industries!

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