A few days ago, The Guardian ran a piece by Jeremy Paxman where he tore into open plan offices and the environment they create.
Paxman argues that rather than making workplaces fairer – with everyone on the same level and easily accessible – open plan offices strip staff of privacy and personality:
‘I have never yet met anyone who likes working in an open-plan office. Because the space belongs to no one – don’t dare to try to put down any reminder, like a photograph, that you are a human, with a family and friends.’
Of course he’s talking about big companies with lots of staff and officious office managers, but he’s not entirely incorrect. You see, one of the issues with open plan offices is precisely that you can’t make them your own in the same way you can with a private office.
We’ve written about #OfficeFengShui, psychology and #Productivity quite a lot on the blog. One of the key lessons learned was that personalisation is very important. If you feel happy in your space, if you feel that it’s yours, you’ll be more productive. As Paxman says, that might simply be putting down photos of family and friends, but studies also show that pot plants and green objects are good for happiness and productivity.
Then you get other quirks, like how a messy office is actually good for creativity (yes, really). So what happens if someone in a creative job has to keep her workspace spick and span because it’s a shared office?
It’s not just about desks and pot plants, of course. In an open-plan office you can’t rearrange anything. Tables are fixed and chairs must stay in their ‘proper’ place. But what if you want to re-position your desk and your chair, or hang art on the walls – all things you might do if you followed Feng Shui? Nope, not allowed – official work flow rules only.
So what’s the answer? Well, maybe we all need a little Paxman in our lives. Office managers should allow people to have personal items on their desks; bosses should encourage employees to create a shared space that everyone is happy with.
We may not get the perfect office, but maybe we’ll end up with a Paxo-friendly one.
Here’s some top tips to lift your spirits and help you work more productively:
- Fifty shades of business: brighten up the office with your business’ brand colours. Or try Feng Shui. Put something in gold, green or purple in the left hand corner of your office, based on the entrance to the room: it’s said to bring wealth and prosperity.
- Make light of it: the more natural light in an office, the better. In case that’s in short supply, choose desk lamps to counteract the threat of SAD (after all winter is approaching).
- A healthy atmosphere: a fresh smelling office could perk you up and make you more productive. Japanese research shows that staff in a citrus-scented office cut their typing errors by 54% while working on their computers. (Jasmine came in at 33% and lavender at 20%).
- Take the temperature: Some studies have shown that worker productivity drops by 50% when the indoor temperature rises above 25 degrees. The HSE says temperature in workrooms should be at least 16 degrees Celsius.
Do you want to make the most of your office environment? We’ve got more tips and advice: