In last Wednesday’s post, I mentioned the recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas list of workplace trends of the future. Well, today, I came across this Miami Herald article about how companies are doing away with cubicles with increasing frequency, one of the trends Challenger predicted.
It mentions Florida-based RBB Public Relations, who got rid of private offices for everyone, including top management. RBB now encourages its 28 employees to work anywhere they’re comfortable, from their open workstation to the floor in the ”playroom” or a couch in the ”den” to a client’s on the road.
The thinking behind taking down cubicles among companies like RBB is that such a move will encourage communication among employees and foster creativity. Of course, whether or not it actually does is hard to measure, but Cornell University has research to suggest that “more open office environments…significantly benefit communication that speeds the overall work process while contributing to high-quality work and employee satisfaction with their job.”
Some emerging workspace trends the Miami Herald article mentions:
- Tearing down walls or replacing offices or cubicles with workstations that have low (or no) dividers.
- Organizing seas of cubicles into ”neighborhoods” where everyone can easily see each other from their chairs.
- Window space is now reserved for workstations, with remaining offices getting glass fronts and moving to the inner core of the space so everyone gets natural light.
- Replacing silence with ”pink noise,” which masks conversations and other sounds.
- Replacing conference room with many smaller spaces for informal meetings or important phone calls.
Reading this article and about these trends reminds me of a related story. My friend who used to work for a small publishing company that, in addition to a traditional break room with a fridge, tables and chairs, had “de-stress room.” The room was a converted conference room with comfy chairs, low lighting, continuous “relaxing” music, and the occasional visit from a masseuse. Employees could go in there to relax, take 20 minute naps, or even do some yoga to reenergize. Before she told me about her office, I knew that companies like Google encourage their employees to play at work, but it just seemed like yet another one of those oddities that made uber-hip companies like Google unique. I’d never actually known an office that employed such elements into its office in “real life.” Now, of course, it seems after reading this article, that the practice of taking a less conventional approach to workplace structure is becoming more and more, well, conventional…perhaps for good reason.
I’d love to hear more about other companies who have unconventional set ups or unique features meant to inspire creativity and spur communication among employees, and, if so, whether its made a difference in retention and engagement. Thoughts?