Open Offices and the Lonely Work of Work
A discussion with a CFO colleague of mine today about new office space got me thinking about the issue. Many of the companies I visit have moved to an open office environment where there are few offices or even cubicles. Open desks are the rule. Most companies do it with the stated intent of encouraging collaboration, cross-functional pollination and a greater diversity of input. A few even admit that cost is the key driver.
No doubt an open office environment is conducive to meeting new people, overhearing something of value, and having quick informal discussions. Nevertheless, all the business-speak about collaboration cannot hide the fact that at the end of the day, execution is a solitary endeavor. Eventually, after all the collaboration and ideation, someone has to put together the spreadsheets, write the press release, code the website, coach an employee, call the customer, etc. And, this type of work is best suited to quiet, private space.
I see traditional, Dilbert-like Cubicles, as the best approach allowing for some quiet and privacy but still allowing for an encouraging, open environment.