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Increasing Productivity

Facebook’s Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity

The open office was an exciting innovation in 1900, and people didn’t like it then, either.

John Rampton

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For as long as there have been businesses in operation, leaders have been looking for ways to boost productivity in the workplace. In 1856, the British government conducted a report on office space layouts.

The report said, “For the intellectual work, separate rooms are necessary so that a person who works with his head may not be interrupted; but for the more mechanical work, the working in concert of a number of clerks in the same room under proper superintendence, is the proper mode of meeting it.”

Fast-forward to 1906 and the opening of the Larkin Administration Building. Dubbed the first modern office, the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and highlighted an open office plan.

Related: How To Create A Productive Office Space

The open-office concept continued throughout the 20th century, but it really took off in the 2000s, thanks to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook embracing the open layout.

When Facebook unveiled its new campus in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” The campus, which is actually a single room stretching 10 acres, was designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Some Facebook employees, such as product designer Tanner Christensen, believe the new campus encourages productivity, collaboration and creativity. That’s because the open design focuses on mobility, empowers individual boundaries and encourages chance encounters.

Is open plan the right move?

That may be true in some cases, but most employees don’t share the same excitement. In 2015, The Washington Post published an article that boldly stated that the open-office trend “is destroying the workplace” at places like Google because it’s too “oppressive.”

In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple wasn’t happy with the open-office design: “Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.”

While neither shares Facebook’s version of an open workspace, both articles highlight the fact that companies are prioritizing design over function.

Related: Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

What’s more, two-thirds of the 42,764 respondents to a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction found “open-plan layouts showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than enclosed office layouts.”

In fact, researchers stated, “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.”

Besides employees being dissatisfied with open office plans, they’re detrimental to productivity. That spells bad news for Facebook going forward.

Harder to focus, with more distractions

This should be obvious.

Everyone has that one teammate who’s so loud (and perhaps so obnoxious) that he distracts the entire office. Instead of being able to close a door to enjoy uninterrupted work, colleagues are pulled to engage in conversations. Research has even found that hearing one side of a phone conversation is more distracting than listening to both sides of an in-person conversation.

Professors Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks note in their article “Who Moved My Cube” that “some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

Even more, as pointed out in The New Yorker, “Psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.” Overall, employees claim they’re losing 86 minutes a day to distractions.

Stressed or sick? Probably both

stressed-or-sick

A study conducted by Dr. Vinesh Oommen at the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”

Another study of 10,000 workers, funded by Steelcase, reported that “95% said working privately was important to them, but only 41% said they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to get work completed.”

Of course, when more people get sick, there are more absences. The New Yorker states that companies with an open-office design can anticipate employees to take 62 percent more sick leave.

Related: The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

But that’s not the only way office mates in the open concept affect each other’s actions: Research from the Auckland University of Technology also shows that open offices often can lead to antisocial behaviors.

Researchers have found that in shared working spaces, there are increases in “employee social liabilities.” This includes “distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened.”

That’s because employees don’t feel as if they have supportive supervision. Additionally, between the lack of support and the noise, employees in open offices eventually “become more irritated, suspicious and withdrawn.”

Busyness as a proxy for productivity

As defined by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work,” “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”

Newport goes on to explain: “If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems… all of these behaviors make you seem busy in a public manner.

If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.”

This is what happens in an open office: Managers tend to evaluate their team members on how busy they appear. That’s because they look out on the floor and see people on their computers, but they could be playing a game or updating their social media accounts instead of working.

Ending the nightmare

If you’re designing a new workspace for your startup or business, you can consider some alternatives to an open layout.

Hub and Spoke is actually a hybrid of an open office and a closed office. While there are central spaces and hallways that are open, there are still individual offices. M.I.T.’s Building 20 is an excellent example of the Hub and Spoke approach.

Eudamonia Machine comes from Newport himself; in this concept, offices are divided into five spaces: the Gallery, Salon, Library, Office and Chamber. You must pass through each room to get to the next. However, each room encourages more concentrated and focused work.

Writer’s Cabin doesn’t have to literally be a cabin. It’s actually any location where you can get serious, uninterrupted work done. It could be your local coffee shop, the library or even a tiny house in your backyard.

Related: 5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Open offices may have sounded like a utopian dream to many entrepreneurs in the last decade, but seeing how they’ve played out in recent years proves they’re a nightmare for productivity.

Leaders looking to keep their teams sane — and working — would do well to explore other options. Design over function is a fun way to run a business, but it’s not a very smart one.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and has been one of the Top 10 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World for the past three years. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Ways To Be More Productive In 2019 Without Driving Your Team Insane

Here’s how to get your business running faster and better.

Andrew Medal

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When talking about their biggest challenges for 2019, many of the entrepreneurs I speak with say they’re overwhelmed with the rapid pace at which business operates today. Today’s consumers have come to expect instant gratification, and they’re putting pressure on companies to make sure that they get what they want right now.

Technology’s partly to blame for these questionably reasonable expectations. We’ve got virtually countless hours of on-demand video streaming content at our fingertips. We’re on the cusp of mass product delivery by drone. We get frustrated when customer service departments fail to respond to our queries within minutes.

Just a couple of decades ago, looking up information meant going to the library to check out references. Today, we don’t even type out our Google searches. We just holler at Siri or Alexa to get the answers, products and media we want.

In a survey by PwC, nearly four out of five surveyed customers customers say that they want experiences that are speedy, convenient and helpful. For businesses, reliably offering these experiences has become a constant challenge.

With 2019 already underway, why not make speed improvement one of your key objectives for the year ahead? Here are five strategies you can apply to speed up your processes as we get ready to zoom through another year.

1. Maximise your real-time social media opportunities

Knowing what delights customers most is a huge component of business leadership. Data from the 2018 Sprout Social Index suggests that there’s a widening disconnect between what brands’ social media profiles are posting about (61 percent of the 2,000 social marketers surveyed favoured teaching, while 58 percent favoured telling stories) and what customers want (73 percent of the 1,200 surveyed prefer deals, while 60 percent prefer posts showcasing new products and services).

So, how can you improve your organisation’s ability to discern what the market really wants right now? Conducting your own market surveys can help, but it’s a resource-heavy solution that yields dubious insights. Social listening, on the other hand, allows marketers to follow what people are saying about your industry, products, and competitors.

I’ve used solutions like SentiOne that can track such mentions across social platforms and online communities in real-time. Armed with this information, you’d be able to act on customer issues in a timely manner and even launch targeted campaigns that speak directly to customers’ interests with precision. It’s also a useful way to know what new features or products to roll-out or at least give you the starting point to start your market research.

Related: Want More Productive Employees? It’s Time To Get Physical, Together

2. Shorten time to delivery

Customers don’t like waiting for their online orders to arrive at their doorsteps. Last year, the maximum time that e-commerce buyers found acceptable for orders with free shipping was just 4.5 days, as reported by Emarketing. If they’re paying for shipping, they expect to receive their packages even sooner.

Having the ability to expedite delivery can be a major differentiator, but it’s a tall order if you’re a smaller enterprise. Thankfully, as the independent e-commerce economy has grown, so has the ecosystem of logistics services empowering the industry.

Using a third-party, fully white label-ready fulfillment partner gives you the capability to offer two-day shipping, without being dependent on Amazon.

Industry leader ShipBob, for one, can store your inventory in a network of shared warehouses around the country, so that products are ready to ship, with maximum proximity, as soon as your customers check out. Better fulfillment partners integrate directly with leading shopping cart systems like Shopify and WooCommerce and can save you and customers massive amounts of wait time.

3. Maintain a bird’s eye view of your business

With competition seemingly getting tougher every year, in 2019 your ability to make quick but informed decisions has become mission-critical. However, getting hold of the necessary information may require pulling data from dozens of sources, each with its own interface, before you are able to generate reports that are comprehensive enough to act upon.

A consolidated business data resource can provide you with an integrated dashboard that pools together information from all the platforms you use for social media, sales, project management, finance and marketing.

Even if you use separate services like HubSpot, MailChimp and Twitter, Rivery.io’s platform, for example, can aggregate real-time information from your accounts and even push metrics to the data repository of your choice.

You can’t afford to get stuck in the nitty-gritty anymore. Keep an eye on the trends that matter, so you can make smarter strategic decisions on the fly. I also like to use tools like Kipfolio, for interactive business dashboards that give me a pulse on everything from sales to accounting to marketing spend.

4. Accompany your customers on their journeys

As reported by Strategy and PwC, three out of four surveyed buyers in the U.S. say that customer experience is a major factor in their shopping decisions, citing speed and ease as their most valued factors. Yet, despite the efforts of developers and designers to create intuitive interfaces, some customers, especially those who lack tech savvy, have been known to hit roadblocks on their paths to purchase.

To avoid alienating these customers, you can ease access to your interface with an interactive walkthrough solution. Offering onsite chat, either automated or human-driven, can help maximise a sense of accessibility and trust, shortening the time to convert prospects into customers.

This type of “digital adoption” hand-holding can be a major game changer, especially if your sales prospects are less comfortable experimenting in digital environments. There are all types of new chatbot software tools that can be used for streamlining these conversations and navigating customers. We’ve used Drift across my various companies and found it works well.

Related: 8 Steps To Having Wildly Productive Mornings

5. Minimise slowdowns caused by absenteeism

Team productivity gets compromised due to staff taking unexpected time off can derail your entire operation. If you can’t find someone else to quickly step in and pick up the slack, it can be hard to fulfill orders and maintain pace on projects.

Using workforce management platforms can help you sort out staffing and scheduling issues, largely on autopilot.

Deputy, for instance, has functionalities that can help line up shift replacements when someone suddenly needs time off. Using the employee-facing app, team members can inform HR with just a few taps that they’ll be out, and the scheduling system automatically dispatches push notifications to others who have similar skills, asking for substitutions that can often be lined up before you even know they were needed.

Absenteeism was a big issue for one of the nonprofits I’m involved with and tools like Deputy have helped us to make necessary adjustments on the fly. Don’t let people interfere with your systems. Manage the systems that manage the people.

Be quick and nimble

Today’s business landscape moves at breakneck speed. But, things always go wrong. For your startups and scaling businesses to keep pace in the coming year, you need to be prepared, with systems in place to expedite processes and minimise the impact of bumps in the road. I wish you a prosperous 2019!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

The Power Of Non-monetary Staff Incentives

Aim to align business and individual goals through a balance of monetary and non-monetary rewards, and you’ll soon see a massive impact on the bottom line and staff morale. There can be no greater incentive than that.

Greg Morris

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the best-known theories of motivation, suggests that humans are motivated to fulfil basic needs – like food, shelter, and safety – before striving to satisfy more complex needs: health, companionship, self-esteem, and self-actualisation.

So, we get jobs to satisfy our basic needs. Then, with food in our stomachs and decent rest, we start to crave fulfilment in things money can’t buy: appreciation and respect, making a valuable contribution to the world, and – the Holy Grail of motivation – using our talents and abilities to achieve our full potential.

It’s no coincidence that the best companies to work for have and share a clear direction, offer challenging work, and entrench appealing cultures. Their employees feel valued and are empowered through opportunities for advancement and expressions of gratitude.

This is why we can’t assume that giving people more money will make them work harder.

Money means little if staff are overworked and don’t have the time or energy to enjoy the financial rewards they receive. People also respond better to incentives that address their psychological need for acceptance, appreciation, and accomplishment. Let’s look briefly at the ways in which organisations can show appreciation for a job well done.

Show me the money?

Part of what makes us individuals is the fact that we’re motivated by different things. A graduate will appreciate a cash bonus. A new mother might also appreciate more money – but money can’t buy her more time with her baby. Flexible working hours can.

In fact, studies suggest that the effects of monetary rewards are short-lived because people don’t differentiate cash bonuses from their normal pay. Extra money is quickly sucked up by household expenses and debt – i.e. by working to fulfil our basic needs.

Now, that’s not to say that we should discount monetary rewards. I believe there’s a time and place for both – and your business and culture are two of the biggest deciding factors.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Win-win

The industry you’re in and the type of work an employee does dictates the incentives you should offer. Some roles – like commission work – require a more financially motivated incentive system to ensure the smooth running of the business and to achieve personal targets. Salespeople bring in business, profit grows, salespeople are rewarded financially.

But admin and marketing staff, for example, receive set salaries and not commissions, so they can be acknowledged for excellent customer service or for improving an inefficient administration process. For them, training courses, movie tickets, vouchers, or even time off to pursue a personal passion project might offer a bigger thrill than money.

Any incentive programme must align with your company’s goals to ensure that the group works towards the same outcome. Employees are more likely to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities when their contribution to the bigger picture is acknowledged and rewarded. And, in pursuit of their own excellence, the business’s interests naturally benefit.

Sweet spot

Successful reward programmes balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (when we do something because it aligns with our values and because we want the reward).

Getting this balance right is critical to retaining talent. Being passionate about work is one thing, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Just as dangerous is having a workforce that’s only motivated by money but produces mediocre work. The magic happens when we reward employees for the outcomes of their passion: Happier customers and a healthier bottom line.

The sweet spot lies in incentivising positive behaviours as much as goal achievement. The behaviour might not be directly linked to the financial performance of the company but there may be other obvious benefits, like improved morale or an attractive company culture.

The power of gratitude

Positive behaviours needn’t be rewarded with money or redeemable points. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. One study noted a 50% increase in the amount of additional help being offered as a result of appreciation, suggesting that motivation extends past material things. And a boost in self-esteem ticks all the right boxes in Maslow’s fourth level of needs.

Although basic, recognition and appreciation are often overlooked motivators. The same study found that only 15% of us consistently say ‘thank you’ at work. According to another study, 79% of employees quit their jobs because they didn’t feel appreciated.

Positive behaviours can be subtly reinforced using tactics like leader boards, employee-of-the-month posters, floating trophies, free lunch, or time off. It’s the little things that count.

Related: Is Cash King? The Psychology of Incentives

Shifting motivators

As individuals get older and enter different phases of our lives, there’s an evolution in the things that motivate them. As leaders, we need to build meaningful relationships with our staff, to better understand what motivates an individual today, not what motivated them five years ago. This depends on constant communication and open engagement and feedback.

Bottom line? We need to think differently about motivation and to apply creativity and innovation to company incentive programmes. Aim to align business and individual goals through a balance of monetary and non-monetary rewards, and you’ll soon see a massive impact on the bottom line and staff morale. There can be no greater incentive than that.

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Increasing Productivity

Listen To Lead – Giving Staff Space To Speak Can Pay Dividends

Are you listening or hearing your staff?

Richard Mukheibir

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Excitement, vision and determination are all great qualities for an entrepreneur, particularly when you are setting up your business. But when you move into the consolidation and then growth phases, they could backfire.

It may come as a surprise to you that such positive qualities could ever cause any negatives. But once you have driven every last muscle to get your business up and running, you need to transition yourself into managing it. For that, you need to work as hard on your people skills as you did on your start-up.

It is true that decisiveness is a key attribute of a successful manager but your decisions must be based on solid evidence and intelligence you have gathered. Try as you might, you cannot be everywhere in the business at once and so you need to soak up and sort out the observations related to you by your staff.

Make a point of being seen regularly on your shop or factory floor and chatting in a relaxed, non-judgemental way with your staff and any customers who may be around. Stalking around saying nothing is just as intimidating to your staff as the habit that some bosses have of appearing very infrequently simply to bawl people out.

People skills are so critical because it is people who buy your product and people who work for you. Whichever way you look at it, your business is people-driven.

Related: Look After Your Employees And They Will Look After Your Reputation

So to win the loyalty of your shareholders, customers or surveyors, you need to show that you treat all people with the respect each one deserves and can mix positively with each and every one. Getting to know your staff in this way will develop in you the subtleties of emotional intelligence, a skill that is vital to your ultimate success.

With emotional intelligence, you will be able to adapt your management style to achieve the best results from each individual. You will know instinctively when a staff member needs a few words of encouragement or comfort, or when and how much to push to get the best out of them – perhaps even more than they knew that they had to give.

At Cash Converters SA, all our managers are expected to polish their people skills to achieve the best for themselves and the staff reporting to them. Even our top management team is not exempt and makes a point of putting a day or two aside each month to visit a different franchisee round the country.

That way we can help mentor and coach them to deal with any management problems that they may be encountering. From a corporate and strategic point of view, we can also check that the corporate branding is on track and listen to feedback on whether any new lines are working well or not and to suggestions for new brand extensions or even new and complementary income streams.

Related: Understanding Your Responsibility As An Employer

In that way, an apparently soft skill can make your business even more competitive. By insisting on strong people skills among your staff, you will build a more harmonious working place. To complement this, incorporate relevant feedback into your planning. This will have a positive impact on the bottom line, which is exactly what leaders want to achieve.

So keep quiet and listen as much as you can. Make a point of not anxiously filling nervous silences with hasty instructions or long technical lectures. Then you will benefit the business by hearing what your staff need to get the job done and who is blossoming into a promising talent.

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