The death of the open-plan office? Not quite, but a revolution is in the air

The death of the open-plan office? Not quite, but a revolution is in the air
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“What will it take to encourage much more widespread reliance on working at home for at least part of each week?” asked Frank Schiff, the chief economist of the US Committee for Economic Development, in The Washington Post in 1979.

Four decades on, we have the answer.

But COVID-19 doesn’t spell the end of the centralised office predicted by futurists since at least the 1970s.

The organisational benefits of the “propinquity effect” – the tendency to develop deeper relationships with those we see most regularly – are well-established.

The open-plan office will have to evolve, though, finding its true purpose as a collaborative work space augmented by remote work.

If we’re smart about it, necessity might turn out to be the mother of reinvention, giving us the best of both centralised and decentralised, collaborative and private working worlds.

Cultural resistance

Organisational culture, not technology, has long been the key force keeping us in central offices.

“That was the case in 1974 and is still the case today,” observed the “father of telecommuting” Jack Nilles in 2015, three decades after he and his University of Southern California colleagues published their landmark report Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff: Options for Tomorrow. “The adoption of telework is still well behind its potential.”

Source: The Conversation

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