Collaborators or Cheapskates?

Open office environments are a growing trend in the workplace. But as employers incorporate lower partitions and even cubicle-free spaces, the atmosphere comes with its fair share of critics.

“A lot of the conversation is that it promotes collaboration; that’s the rhetoric of it, but it certainly is cheaper,” author Nikil Saval said. “You can cram more people in less space.”

Employers may save money on furniture and rented space, but they can also sabotage their workforce. 

Peter Lippman, associate director of EIWArchitects in Australia, said open workspaces meant to have a “watering hole” sense of community actually breed territorial competition instead of collaboration.

“We can’t be fooled by words that Google and Apple use when they say they want watering holes for spontaneous interactions,” he said. “You have to ask what a watering hole is. If you’re an antelope you’re also with hyenas and lions that want to eat you. So is it really that safe a place for you to want to share?”

To Lippman, this can be avoided by kicking in the extra cash so employees have their own spaces to work and other community areas to meet in for progress meetings.

“It’s about creating places where I feel safe and secure, and maybe having a desk I can call my own will give me that,” he said.

Image courtesy of Wikicommons.