Weekend Leadership Reading: 8/24/18

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Weekends are time when things slow down a little. Your weekend shouldn’t be two more regular work days. That’s a sure road to burnout. Take time to refresh yourself. Take time for something different. Take time for some of that reading you can’t find time for during the week.

Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms. This week there are articles about workplaces, especially open-plan workplaces. Companies seem to love them, workers, not so much.

From Adi Gaskell: How Open Plan Offices Impact Collaboration

“One of the main selling points of open plan offices is that they are good for collaboration. Their ability to support ease of communication among employees is supposed to encourage teams to work effectively together. This is then supposed to offset their damage to individual work that requires high levels of concentration. Except the evidence is mounting that they aren’t even that good for supporting collaboration.”

From Christian Jarrett: Open-plan offices drive down face-to-face interactions and increase use of email

“As well as their cost-saving appeal, the rationale for large open-plan offices is that they are expected to act as a crucible for human chemistry, increasing face-to-face encounters between colleagues to the benefit of creativity and collaboration. Unfortunately it’s well-established that most workers don’t like them, such is the fundamental human need for privacy and control over one’s environment. Now a pair of quasi-experimental field studies published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B suggest that the supposed collaborative advantage of open-plan offices also doesn’t pass muster.”

From Geoffrey James: Open-Plan Offices Make the Workplace More Toxic

“Last week I explained why open-plan offices are now officially the dumbest management fad of all time. Not only do they decrease rather than increase employee collaboration but they generally have a huge negative impact on productivity. As if that weren’t bad enough, open-plan offices can make a normal workplace toxic and a toxic workplace even worse. In fact, open-plan offices can do permanent, long-term damage to your health.”

From Fast Company: An architect’s defense of open plan offices

“A recent study of how employees communicate in open plan offices seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of this popular workplace design. But the study had an essential flaw, writes architect Ashley L. Dunn.”

From the BBC: Workers in open-plan offices ‘more active’

“Workers in open-plan offices are more active and less stressed than those with desks in cubicles or private offices, research suggests.”

From Fast Company: The real reason your company switched to an open plan office

“Open offices suck. Recent research shows that they can decrease face-to-face collaboration and increase email, diminish employees’ productivity, reduce focus, and even promote sexism. While there may be a time and place for open workspaces, workers themselves tend to hate them. So why do companies love them? A new data analysis by Erik Rood offers one simple explanation: They save companies insane amounts of money.”

For contrast, here’s a 2006 article from Fortune titled “Cubicles: The great mistake.

Wally’s Comment: People seem to want a one-size-fits-all answer to the question about what makes the best workspace. I don’t think there is one. I think the answer depends on the people involved, the work to be done, and the size of the team. A couple of years ago, I had the priviledge of working with Rod Santomassimo o his book Commercial Real Estate Teams Built to Dominate. Most of the teams Rod profiled used a bullpen, open-office, arrangement where team members could overhear other team members conversations.

Book Suggestions

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

Includes an excellent description of how Bell Labs built a facility to foster both creativity and innovation.

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

Has an excellent chapter on “Workplaces” that discusses, among other things, MIT’s legendary Building 20 and what people really want in a workspace.

Change Your Space, Change Your Culture: How Engaging Workspaces Lead to Transformation and Growth by Rex Miller and Mabel Casey

Every week I share some recommendations of business books that I think are worth a look. Follow this link to the most recent list.

Every Monday, I do a blog post about business reading and business books. Follow this link to the most recent post, my review of The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay.

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