OMG, Enough with the “Open Workspaces are Bad” Already!



If I see another article about how open workspaces are bad, I’m going to scream.

It’s a tired old conversation that we long ago laid to rest.

Here’s the deal, from someone who works every day in an open workspace:

No one space works for every person / day / project

What we love about open workspaces is the flexibility. Some days I need a quiet space; some days I need a meeting room; some days I need access to a private phone booth; some days I need space to collaborate; some days I want to be surrounded by chit-chat and coworking fun. The idea is to have access to what we need when we need it. That’s the beauty of flexible workspace.

Putting people near each other does not make them collaborate

There’s this illusion floating around that if you put people in an open space, they’ll magically connect and collaborate. That’s only partially true. There are people in my home coworking space who I’ve seen around for years and never had a single conversation with because that’s just not their thing—they prefer to keep to themselves.

There are other people in the space who I’ve collaborated with dozens of times.

Proximity increases the possibility of social, creative and professional encounters, but it doesn’t make them magically happen. There’s a human element that drives these things. The more you cultivate a spirit of collaboration in your space, the more likely people are to join in, but that has little to do with the space itself.

There are ways to go heads-down, even in an open space

One of the biggest gripes I hear about open workspace is that people can’t get any work done. I can tell you, there are ways to signal that you’re heads-down. One is to put headphones on; another is to work in a quiet area of the space; another is to create a tone of professionalism around yourself so people know you’re there to work…and have fun.

It’s also nice to ask someone if they have a minute before launching into a conversation with them. If they don’t, they’ll tell you, and you can do the same.

Quiet spaces are essential

My home coworking space has an area we call “Library Row.” It’s a no phones, no talking space, and it’s perfect for when you need to disappear completely and dive into a project. People respect the row because we all know it’s a necessary feature.

Productivity is largely personal

I’m wildly more productive in my coworking space than I am at home.

That being said, there are days where I do a lot more socializing than I probably ought to, but…and here’s the real talk: That’s why I’m in a coworking space! Those conversations and jokes and selfies and banter sessions are what make our community the tightly-knit powerhouse it is. And, it’s completely on me if I’m over-socializing and avoiding work.

Open workspace is not inherently good or bad. It’s a way of working and, for a lot of us, it is lightyears better than being holed away at home or in a lonely old office somewhere.

What do you think? Leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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