How to work in an open environment

The last 30 years or so have given a remarkable change in the frames around how we work in an office environments. From closed cell offices via cubicles into an open environment. From name tags on the doors into «free seating».

The response have been mixed. Some employees have sincere and well founded concerns about office noise and how this affects work. Most concerns are related to tasks where you need to be focused, without getting interrupted.

There is no doubt office noise will distract you from your work. The question is whether this is a good thing or not. According to Cisco and many other companies, this distraction leads to more collaboration, new and better ideas.

The thought is to move from a scenario where you are dependent on a few «gurus» who know everything, and all progress relies one these «gurus». In this scenario, tasks are waiting for the guru to get around to solve them. In the corporate culture with an open floor plan, more employees are able to pick a high priority task and solve it. If you are stuck on an issue, or know the solution to a challenge a coworker has, there are less barriers to work together.

The individual employee might work a bit slower, but the synergy effect of working together makes it a better working methodology then the «guru-knows-it-all». For the company – at least.

As usual, this is a trend led by the guys in Silicon Valley. Working agile, encouraging collaboration and informal work environments.

An open floor plan, “free seating“, clean desk, a paperless workflow and a agile work methodology are often interrelated. To gain the most benefit from the above, you need to embrace the new paradigm. You will need the proper utilities available. Software to assist and coordinate agile workflows. A framework for documentation, «how-to’s», and easy access to the information. Applications that lets you notes on all your devices. Take note on a phone, iPad, laptop, and it will be available on your workstation both at work and at the home office.

My 5 cents at least.