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Open Office Layouts


BG2008
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Do you mind sharing what type of work you do?  This is kind of my anecdotal survey of the trends in the office space.  If companies decide at some point to go back to cubicles to increase productivity, it could be interesting for the office sector. 

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Work in one, Invest in really good noise cancelling earphones.

 

We've been going to Mayo Clinic for an auditory related issue. FWIW, the audiologist told my wife to absolutely not use ear plugs or noise canceling earphones. My wife used ear plugs because of my snoring! She said our brains need to be constantly hearing these background noises otherwise it will adversely affect our hearing. She said you want to use ear protection only if the noise level is damaging.

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Work in one, Invest in really good noise cancelling earphones.

 

Same. Absolutely loath it. I run multiple teams of developers and data scientists (so maybe wrong personalities/type of work for an open office) and I frequently have to message them so they take off their headphones for a conversation. We also have a very liberal work from home policy. This message is largely lost on my company as they've been opening up floor after floor in just about every office I've been in (we have one in most major cities).

 

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I refuse to work for any company that adopts open space office (and forces people to work in said office).

 

Agreed.  Cubicles are bad enough, hearing everyone talking all the time.  Actually seeing everyone else around you while you are sitting at your desk would be way too distracting.  I'd look for another job.  If companies really wanted to increase productivity they'd invest in hard-wall offices for everyone.  I read somewhere that cubicles are used instead of walls for tax reasons, as they are considered furnishings not rooms.  I'm not sure if this is true, but it conforms to my already held belief that government ruins everything.

 

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I've leased maybe a half dozen offices in varying locations from NYC to the suburbs of it, over the past decade. Never have I shared space and cant imagine how for some businesses, this type of layout isn't a complete nonstarter from the get go.

 

But, I do think it is indicative of some companies last ditch efforts to attract the millennial crowd and herd them into an office. But it will likely be short lived.

 

Which leads me to my conclusion, that in the world of RE investment, certain things are safe, and certain ones arent(duh). Residential to me cant be virtualized(again, duh). Retail as we've discussed ad naseum, is being forced to change and can be very much at risk. Industrial, I think is the second safest space after residential. But IMO, what is most at risk, way more so than even retail, is office space. Theres just no need for it on a lot of levels and when you combine this with the future generations and their "lets explore bc I have ADD" mentality, companies will continue to shift out of traditional office. Much like with retail, sure you will still have some big trophy office campuses. But the days of just throwing up cubicles and guiding thousands of employees, like cattle, into an office, is not the way of the future. WeWorks "idea" wasn't revolutionary, it was reactionary.

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Do you mind sharing what type of work you do?  This is kind of my anecdotal survey of the trends in the office space.  If companies decide at some point to go back to cubicles to increase productivity, it could be interesting for the office sector.

 

Work in finance, it was sold as it would increase collaboration but it's done anything but that...people just use earplugs when they need to get work done. End up just messaging instead of actually talking to someone which was much more common at the old workspace. I half think it was done to compete for talent with the tech industry (some colleagues mention something similar was done around the late 90's tech boom) and half think it's just corporate finding a way to get more headcount in less space to ultimately reduce real estate costs. Depends how jaded (or how early in the day I have to put earplugs in)(or if someone steals my desk since we all 'hot desk') I am on a particular day whether I tend more one way or the other.

 

 

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Work in one, Invest in really good noise cancelling earphones.

 

We've been going to Mayo Clinic for an auditory related issue. FWIW, the audiologist told my wife to absolutely not use ear plugs or noise canceling earphones. My wife used ear plugs because of my snoring! She said our brains need to be constantly hearing these background noises otherwise it will adversely affect our hearing. She said you want to use ear protection only if the noise level is damaging.

 

I jam out on spotify all day, so it's not just the buzz of the noise cancelling going on.

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Office layout follows the 80/20 rule; 80% of your staff really don't need a permanent office, only 20% do.

There are very practical reasons why the C suite doesn't work in an open space, or an open conference room.

 

We also don't have 'one' office in a major city, we have many; that 80% of staff work from home &/or shared 'hives' in their local neighbourhood, not one central location. Staff turns over quickly, they are hungry for experience, and there's constant fresh blood hired at the lower end of the payscale. You're not there for a career, you're there for the gig - both you, AND the company.

 

Obviously, there's an opportunity cost to this - the HR side of the business; but it's not an accounting cost, and therefore does not show up on the P&L. We may have mocked WeWork, but their office space was going into shared 'hives', and they were SUCCESSFULLY renting a lot of it out. Derision doesn't trump results.

 

SD

 

 

 

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“Open office” and a large shared space are two very different things..

 

Are you surrounded by colleagues or not?

 

Being in open space surrounded by colleagues is only marginally better than being surrounded by sales drones on the phones.

Having things moving in your visual field all day is a distraction regardless whether they are your colleagues or inflatable dolls.

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I enjoy it. If I need to be productive, I just put headphones on which is the universal sign of don't bother me.

 

Otherwise, it was nice being in an environment where I didn't feel suffocated by walls/limited space and could casually chat with coworkers from time to time.

 

But I'm also a social animal and thrive off of interaction with others so maybe it just better suits my personality and disposition versus your typical value investor represented on this board.

 

I'm also a millennial so there's that too ...

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I enjoy it. If I need to be productive, I just put headphones on which is the universal sign of don't bother me.

 

Otherwise, it was nice being in an environment where I didn't feel suffocated by walls/limited space and could casually chat with coworkers from time to time.

 

But I'm also a social animal and thrive off of interaction with others so maybe it just better suits my personality and disposition versus your typical value investor represented on this board.

 

I'm also a millennial so there's that too ...

 

For an introvert, 25-40% of the population, it could be a nightmare.

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There was talk at our site to knockdown all walls and move to a cubical environment...I cited the below and the subsequent Harvard study to help put an end to it. But the truth is at our building everyone including myself work on "global teams" so collaboration  (person to person) is quite rare to begin with.

 

Personally I cannot focus unless I have absolute silence. Generally I sit with my Sony noise canceling earbuds (no music) and crank out my work. 

 

https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-truth-about-open-offices

 

Harvard has quite a few studies showing the negative effects of Open Office designs. Everyone is different though. I think a good mix is the best solution. Somewhere I can go with team members to collaborate and then a place I can retreat to focus.

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You're hired to get the work done, and it comes down to you the worker, to manage your own productivity and 'brand'.

A foreign concept to many of the middle-aged and older; but as basic as breathing to a millennial or younger.

 

On those days you need an isolation box to get the work done, stay at home. On those days when it is less critical, go to the office and both work and socialize (with or without headphones). Face time and socialization, is both part of your brand, and your 'future' insurance. When the cuts come, the first guy/gal we fire is the one we don't see very often - as few will notice.

 

It's only old people who whine about the commute (time, cost, etc.), young people just do.

No car, take the much cheaper and greener bus instead. Max 1 hour transit time to a community hive versus the downtown 'office', and cheaper street eats. Minimal investment in office attire; and travel to the 'office' as a typically once/week investment in face-time and socialization (ie: dress down Friday). Much easier to weave in kids/school demands, and just much smarter overall.

 

Office layout is much less a physical thing, and much more a generational gap. Old 'geezers' insisting on 'tweaks' to yesterdays office design, who just don't get it. Obviously we don't wrap today's fish and chips, in yesterdays chip paper; but apparently some folks didn't get the message.

 

SD

 

There was talk at our site to knockdown all walls and move to a cubical environment...I cited the below and the subsequent Harvard study to help put an end to it. But the truth is at our building everyone including myself work on "global teams" so collaboration  (person to person) is quite rare to begin with.

 

Personally I cannot focus unless I have absolute silence. Generally I sit with my Sony noise canceling earbuds (no music) and crank out my work. 

 

https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-truth-about-open-offices

 

Harvard has quite a few studies showing the negative effects of Open Office designs. Everyone is different though. I think a good mix is the best solution. Somewhere I can go with team members to collaborate and then a place I can retreat to focus.

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Open office layouts have been popular here (Norway) for some years as well, and anecdotally "everybody hates it". "Everybody" being people who do some sort of deep-ish thinking for a living, it might be different for e.g. a call-center.

 

However: a big office with a handfull of people, working on the same team/product/project, can work pretty well in my opinion. This can actually help communication/cooperation. This is pretty common in for software development teams. In my office now I have two developers, a designer and the "product person". More or less. This works fine when we remember to take discussions outside the office whenever they take more than a few minutes, keep our voice down, etc. It did not work well when we were 8 people on the team. Half of the time I wish I had a single office, but at least with a "pizza-sized team" there can be some real positive effects. I have never heard positive things from people who are in an open plan office with 30 other people.

 

I get that it looks cheaper on paper (less square meters to pay rent for) to cram 30 developers (or other people who get paid to think)  into a big rom. But both the people who work there, and numerous studies, say that your ability to think (in lack of a better word) is reduced. If the reduction in rent is worth the "lost cognitive output", I'd say you're hiring the wrong people.

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You're hired to get the work done, and it comes down to you the worker, to manage your own productivity and 'brand'.

A foreign concept to many of the middle-aged and older; but as basic as breathing to a millennial or younger.

 

On those days you need an isolation box to get the work done, stay at home. On those days when it is less critical, go to the office and both work and socialize (with or without headphones). Face time and socialization, is both part of your brand, and your 'future' insurance. When the cuts come, the first guy/gal we fire is the one we don't see very often - as few will notice.

 

It's only old people who whine about the commute (time, cost, etc.), young people just do.

No car, take the much cheaper and greener bus instead. Max 1 hour transit time to a community hive versus the downtown 'office', and cheaper street eats. Minimal investment in office attire; and travel to the 'office' as a typically once/week investment in face-time and socialization (ie: dress down Friday). Much easier to weave in kids/school demands, and just much smarter overall.

 

Office layout is much less a physical thing, and much more a generational gap. Old 'geezers' insisting on 'tweaks' to yesterdays office design, who just don't get it. Obviously we don't wrap today's fish and chips, in yesterdays chip paper; but apparently some folks didn't get the message.

 

SD

 

There was talk at our site to knockdown all walls and move to a cubical environment...I cited the below and the subsequent Harvard study to help put an end to it. But the truth is at our building everyone including myself work on "global teams" so collaboration  (person to person) is quite rare to begin with.

 

Personally I cannot focus unless I have absolute silence. Generally I sit with my Sony noise canceling earbuds (no music) and crank out my work. 

 

https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-truth-about-open-offices

 

Harvard has quite a few studies showing the negative effects of Open Office designs. Everyone is different though. I think a good mix is the best solution. Somewhere I can go with team members to collaborate and then a place I can retreat to focus.

 

I can’t tell if this is directed at me or just some rant  :P

 

Personally, I couldn’t care less about office amenities. A sleep pod isn’t going to boost my work activity and neither is a free smoothie bar. I mean sure, if someone wants to pay for all that....by all means. It’s amazing the stuff people complain about in offices. I was just saying I prefer a quiet/private office style.

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