People have been writing about the advantages and disadvantages of open vs. enclosed office spaces, for years, if not decades now.
One of the oldest academic research works on the matter was published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., the oldest scholarly journal in the world. The study used wearable technology to track users, which says that open office spaces and their modern office furniture reduce collaboration by the employees. Notably, the study looked at two companies that migrated to open space with little to no boundaries between the employee’s spaces. The general findings state that both companies saw reduced face-to-face interaction between employees, but there are other variables to consider.
There have been other studies, some of them extolling counterpoints to the article, like modern office furniture juggernaut Steelcase, which published a global workplace study, revealing preferences for different kinds of spaces. According to Steelcase’s research, 87% of workers that had a space assigned to them spent 2-4 hours someplace else, as well as looked for smaller, informal spaces to bond and build trust between each other.
The thing is, everyone has is cognitively different. Different people perform different tasks, with different methods, each impacting how people hand tasks and how they work best. How, where, and when we do our best work varies between us, as a highly personal matter.
The people in the Brain Performance Institute, an offshoot of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for Brain Health, has been discussing the issue for more than a year now. Jennifer Zientz, Clinical Services Head, says that science can help understand the environmental conditions needed for optimal performance, the fact of the matter is, people are people, and have to work with the brains that they have. She notes that much of the way people function in the modern workplace is toxic to our well-being, and that taxes performance. A choice of space based on the task helps in dealing with the negative effects.
Therein is the key, they say. People have considered, studied what is the best universal plan for an office space, but there’s simply no such thing. The size, type and duration of the work varies dramatically, meaning that there’s simply no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to designing an office space.
The organisation notes that buildings is the largest custom product in the world, and for good reason. There simply isn’t one size, solution or study that works for the needs of different offices. Spaces can be more than just productive, as they can also help performance, and provide inspiration.