For Productivity and Satisfaction, Crate your Workers

Hispanic businessman works in cubicle at corporate business

I’m not a dog owner, but I hear that dogs feel safer in cozy, confined spaces. Apparently, so do office workers at all levels.

According to dog trainer Karen Pryor, “the crate becomes his own private and safe place… somewhere the dog can go and not be bothered; it’s a perfect destination when the dog is tired or nervous. Using a crate prevents a dog or pup from getting into trouble when you can’t supervise directly. Crate training also teaches puppies and excitable dogs to expect and enjoy some down time, and conditions relaxed behavior.”

Just like workers.

In a new study released by Olivet Nazarene University, respondents said that 34 percent of offices are set up with some open space and some closed offices. Twenty-eight percent of offices are still set up as cube farms, and just 21 percent have all private offices. It seems that workers are much happier when they have doors to close.

Ninety percent of workers with private offices are happy with their setup, as opposed to just 67 percent of those in cubicles.  Open space office concepts were touted as places where collaboration and creativity would soar where there were no barriers between workers. Unfortunately, workers are still (for the time being) human, and they hate open office space.

A Fast Company article says, “They’re distracting. They’re loud. There’s often little privacy.” Two team members in my office who worked in low-walled cubicles referred to their work space as “the petting zoo.”  “Everyone who comes by gawks at us, or worse – stops and talks to us,” one said. It’s impossible to concentrate.”

That corresponds with the Olivet Nazarene study report, which asked workers what they needed to be productive: “A quiet location” (35%), “a dedicated office space” (24%), “a comfortable chair or desk” (22%) and “a door” (8%) were all important. Noise, lack of privacy, and visual distractions were among the most annoying features of open office space.

Open office space is so distracting that one of five workers report wearing headphones more than half their working day; 11 percent wear them all the time. Not exactly conducive to collaboration, even though seven percent of them don’t actually have anything playing in their ears. Message communications (text, email, or DM) now outpace face-to-face conversations in most workplaces, according to the study.

Of course, the open office concept does have its advantages. Walls make it hard to add staff and respond to needed changes in team structure, technology, or infrastructure. Private offices send the message that some workers are more important than others. They also make it easy for introverted or less social workers to avoid interaction, and make it harder to connect with supervisors or team members for guidance. Private offices are expensive, and they’re not the most efficient use of space. And some dogs have an unfortunate tendency to poop in their crates.

That’s a metaphor.

Experts say that offices of the future will have better lighting to make it easier to focus and will improve moods. They’ll also have different kinds of space available for different kinds of work – one designer offered the idea of “cocoons” for deep work that requires intense focus, but available to everyone as needed, unlike private offices. One designer suggests that companies will break up their monolithic buildings to locate teams closer to vendors and partners with who they must communicate frequently.

Balancing ease of use and affordable design in the future work space will be an interesting challenge. You’ll need crates for the humans who want to get things done, of course.

And wide aisles for the robots to move around comfortably.

See the full study on what people think about their workspace here.





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