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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.

Increasing Productivity

Working Remotely? Why You Need A Car

The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Amy Galbraith

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Remote work can be an amazing experience. You do not have to wake up at 5 am to beat the morning traffic and you can work from the comfort of your own home office (or bedroom). Working remotely can become lonely and you might have to visit the office for certain projects. This means that you will need to have a car.

If you are in search of an affordable but reliable car, vehicle auctions in Gauteng could provide the perfect car to meet your needs. Not sure why you need a car if you are working from home? Below are just some of the reasons why it is a necessity.

You might need to go into the office

While some remote work does not require you to be in the office, there are some instances that you might be required to go into the office. This can prove difficult if you do not have a car and have to rely on public transport.

Public transport can be unreliable, which means that you might not arrive on time for meetings or project conferences. Being on time for meetings and group chats is important, and being late can add to your stress levels. Having a car will help to make this journey easier. The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Related: Is Remote Work Taking A Psychological Toll On Your External Workers? Researchers Say Yes

You will need to perform daily errands

Whether you work from home, from a coffee store or in an office, the truth of daily life is that there are always errands to run. And without a car, you might not be able to perform these errands easily.

Grocery shopping can become heavy to carry home if you walk, and an appointment in a suburb far from your own might have to be cancelled. While these might not be as important as your work, you will soon find it frustrating having to call for a lift from a service such as Uber whenever you need to leave home. Not only will this become costly, but you will find it ineffective if you are in a rush or need to be somewhere at a certain time.

You might get lonely

Remote work does allow you a lot more freedom, but you have to put in the same hours as an office job. And these hours can become lonely if you are cooped up inside all day, alone. Having a car will allow you to meet up with friends in the afternoon or weekends.

Auctions will provide you with a diverse array of cars to choose from, including 4×4 options for those who enjoy longer journeys and adventures. Becoming lonely can be distracting and cause you to run behind on your work. If you are looking at working remotely but know that you could fall victim to this feeling, be sure to socialise with friends and family whenever possible. Having your own car will make this possible.

There will be client meetings

Remote work will mostly mean that you work from home or from your favourite coffee store. But it can also involve meeting clients to discuss a brief, which can be tricky if you have to rely on public transport. Not only will being late cause you to stress, but it will be a bad representation of your company for the client.

If you are able to drive yourself to meetings in your own car, there is a higher chance of a successful meeting. An Uber driver might get lost and a bus might break down, but your own car is reliable and affordable. If you have to meet a client urgently about a project, having to rely on public transport can be disastrous.

It is vital to take the fact of client meetings into account when you decide to work remotely and ensure you are able to represent your company the best way possible.

Related: How Much Does Your Remote Team Actually Need to Know?

There will be company get-togethers

A company that consists mostly of remote workers is guaranteed to have regular get-togethers so that all the team members can meet each other and get to know one another. Sometimes, these get-togethers might be far away, and you will need an easy and effective mode of transport.

If you are in search of a car to get you from home to the next work gathering, the auction cars in Gauteng will certainly fit your needs. Not attending company get-togethers and events will reflect poorly on your ability to work in a team, regardless of if your team works together in an office or not. You will be able to learn more about your team and the company as a whole at these events.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Traits Of Highly-Effective Scrum Teams

Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams.

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Scrum teams can make quick work of complex projects. But accomplishing your company goals by utilising a sprint team is difficult because effective scrum teams are so exceedingly rare.

If you’re thinking of assembling a scrum team, you have to be sure that you’re working with talented individuals who can tolerate the stress hyper-ambitious project management frameworks invite.

Agile teams are ones open to change, to communication, and to improving processes as they define them. Scrum teams have all these same qualities but are unique from agile teams in a few key ways.

You must search for key attributes that define great scrum teams before you begin your company’s next project. Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams:

1. Adaptive

Scrum is one of the leading frameworks implementing agile. Agile is an iterative process whereby teams are self-organised and self-motivated, delivering working products in cycles and measuring the progress of their project through these deliverables.

Scrum team members do not hesitate to change requirements, expand or minimise scope, or add or remove a planned feature from an end product.

Changing roles, revisiting processes, or scrapping failed plans is not unheard of for scrum teams. In fact, even changes late in the development process are encouraged.

2. Ambitious

Scrum defines the length of the iterative processes. The time spent on each cycle is defined as a sprint. With each sprint, which is usually only two weeks long, a small fragment of the project is completed.

Upon the completion of the sprint, the scrum master (or project manager) leads a retrospective, using past evidence and performance evaluations to determine how they will go about completing the next sprint. The sprint structure demands ambition.

Successful scrum teams are passionate and ambitious. With each new sprint, they concentrate their goal of continually improving and expanding what their team can accomplish.

3. Open to criticism

One of the foundational principles of scrum is continual improvement. The sprints and the project retrospectives between them serve to help the team better identify problems. In order for this to work, every team member must be open to constructive criticism.

In addition, they must understand how to apply this constructive criticism to make processes better. The team, therefore, must communicate clearly and concisely.

The team as a whole must be on the same page about improving processes. The team must be cohesive, open to mentorship, and gentle but honest communication.

4. Experienced

An experienced team is much more likely to lead your company to success than an inexperienced one. It seems like an obvious bit of wisdom but it is nonetheless true. While you may be attracted to hiring a young team of passionate and promising project managers and developers, it’s a better idea to bet on an experienced bunch.

Scrum is an incredible project management framework. Still, there is no substitute for experience. No matter how strong a framework may be, it cannot buttress your project against unexpected challenges – only experienced project managers can do that.

5. Co-operative

Scrum team leaders have to underscore the importance of constant communication on a regular basis. Ideally, scrum team members are cooperative, communicative, and transparent. The best scrum teams can achieve a high level of cooperation with little to no contentious feelings.

Additionally, scrum teams are cooperative with the organisation as a whole. Often, scrum teams want to communicate and cooperate with other departments within a company. Instead of working in the dark, scrum teams prefer to engage business people, product owners, and marketers with their development process.

Conclusion

Scrum is one of the most popular project management methodologies based on the agile approach. Scrum is everything agile is but with a bit more of a backbone.

Scrum teams embrace fast-paced environments that use an iterative process to handle complexity. As such, successful scrum teams are adaptive, ambitious, and co-operative. They are open to constructive criticism and can leverage retrospectives to better the project.

No matter how hard your team tries, they are sure to encounter challenges. Experienced scrum teams can handle this pressure with cool, calm, and collected demeanour.

Expert scrum teams are rare, but it is possible to assemble one with the proper attention to the traits that comprise the most effective scrum teams.

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Increasing Productivity

How Training Your Employees Will Prepare Them For The Future

Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

Amy Galbraith

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Employee training is an important part of any growing business. Your staff are the backbone of your business and so should have their skills improved whenever possible. By investing in training courses for your employees, you will be preparing them for the future and helping your company keep ahead of the competition.

In order to be prepared for any future trends, you should invest in training courses for companies that focus both on your industry and on more general skills. Not convinced? Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

They will stay on top of evolving skills

In today’s technological and digitally focused world, the skills we are used to are continuously evolving. This might mean that your administrative assistant will need to be able to use chatbot technology in order to deal with client queries or that your marketing team will need to learn about a new Google algorithm as it comes out.

Having a team that is up-to-date on all the latest skills and trends is one of the major benefits of training courses for companies. It prepares them for the future by allowing them to stay on top of evolving skills that they need for working in a fast-paced environment. Their knowledge and abilities will improve, making it easier for them to adapt to any new changes that occur in technology and their skillsets.

Related: What To Include In Your Induction Training

They will be able to use the latest technology

This goes hand-in-hand with staying on top of evolving skills. Being able to use the latest technology is vital to your business’ success, and sending your staff on training courses for companies which operate in the technological world will help with this.

Imagine if you had a personal assistant who was unable to answer emails because they did not know how to access them? Or if you had a content marketing team who did not know how to resize images in Photoshop for a new campaign? This would cost you both time and money, making it difficult to keep your business operating smoothly. But sending your employees on training courses will teach them the basics of technology so they can stay abreast of new developments.

The entire team will build their knowledge

Sending your staff on a training course will help the entire team to improve and increase their knowledge. And this will help with productivity, collaboration and efficiency, all of which are expected by consumers in a world that is becoming increasingly fast-paced.

You will also be allowing those staff members with different levels of understanding of a topic to increase their knowledge on the topic. This will bring the whole team to the same level and allow everyone to have opinions and offer suggestions on issues. By having everyone on the same level, you will be creating employees who can share knowledge and collaborate on projects, finishing on time, within the budget and exceeding customer expectations.

They can prepare for redefined roles

Technology brings with it new and redefined roles for your employees to adapt to. And with new skills becoming difficult to find, smart business owners will send their staff on training courses for companies so they can learn new skills and be prepared for redefined roles.

In some cases, it might mean that your staff have to learn new automation programs that deal with workflow. This will change their role significantly as they will be working hand-in-hand (so to speak) with new software. Your employees will have to be able to adapt to and deal with a change in their role without any issues.

You might even have to assign them new roles if technology continues to advance, such as bookkeepers becoming data analysts once their roles have been automated.

Related: The Importance Of Training In A Small Business

You can address weakness in abilities

Preparing for the future means that you will need to look at your employees’ current performance levels. One effective way to do this is to take part in training courses for companies. This will allow you to see what weaknesses your employees might have and address and rectify them.

You can prepare them for the future by working on their present. Training courses will show them what areas they might need to improve on and work towards bettering their skills. Not only will this help to build their futures in your company, but you will also be helping your company have an edge over the competition. Well-informed and well-trained employees are ideal for building business success.

Sending your employees for training courses not only helps to improve your business but can build up their futures immensely. It will also help your employees to prepare for the future and allow them to easily adapt to any new roles, technology and trends. Their skills will improve and they will be able to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening in your industry.

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