startups and code

Do open-office environments really work?

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In an article on Forbes, they didn't ask if it worked, they simply stated why it does not. Almost a year later, the open-office is still a popular selling point for new hires. Things are constantly changing, we all know that and millennials are a reason for a lot of that change.  Compared to 20 years ago, they communicate, purchase, and market differently. So the question is do they like the open office environment? From my extensive research (note sarcasm), they do not. They like their alone time. They like being able to make their own mistakes in private without judgment and ridicule. When they figure something out, don't worry, they will be sure to share with everyone.

What happens more often is they feel like they are constantly being judged in an open-office environment. Why do they feel that? Because they are. They have been judged since the first day they posted on the internet. They are judged for their opinions, their thoughts, their appearance, their beliefs, their heritage, etc... What an open office intends to do is to increase collaboration, help people interact easily and produce better results due to that collaboration. That collaboration doesn't happen. Why? Most of team doesn't sit together anyway, they hear side conversations that are distracting, they have people walking around them to talk to the person next to them. All in all, they are distracted not collaborating.

How do we fix that? The easiest way to fix that is to encourage mistakes for new hires. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the best thing you can do. They have lived most of their life terrified of making a mistake, doing the wrong thing, saying the thing that offended the wrong person, etc... But anyone with any experience will always say, I have learned much more from my mistakes than my successes.

Create an environment when someone tries something that doesn't follow the process, that doesn't follow corporate rules, and they get rewarded for it. WHAT? They are breaking the process? They are making things WRONG. Are they? Or are they now given enough room to innovate and come up with some crazy idea that is the next big thing?

Open-office environments prevents people from arguing about an idea, because they don't want to disturb everyone. They prevent people from focusing and creating something that may be against the grain, but very valuable to the company.

It should be a separate post about rewarding mistakes, but allowing people to try stuff and fail, and then correct it and succeed is the most rewarding thing a company can do to increase collaboration and innovation. We are proud of our successes, we want to perform and do well. We also need to learn things the way we learn, not in a forced environment of pseudo-collaboration that ends up being increased stress and lower productivity.

My final point about open-office environments is simply this: So many open-office places have such a difficult time organizing the few conference rooms they have, so if actual offices existed, each one could be a new meeting room with a smaller group of people. Most meetings have too many people in it anyway.

I hope this help you be a little more productive and little more excited about your next day at work. Go build something amazing. :-)