- Workers are more creative and productive when they can physically connect and have more face-to-face interactions with coworkers, according to the Gensler Research Institute. Gensler, which specializes in the intersection of design and business, said that with the mass use of technology to communicate, more human interaction is needed, specifically in the workplace.
- To bring this connection about, employers must prioritize proximity, Gensler said. Siting Thomas J. Allen of MIT's Sloan School of Management, colleagues are 95% likely to encounter each other by chance when located on the same floor. But that likelihood drops to 5% when they're separated by floors.
- Close proximity between employees "speeds the flow of ideas, breaks down silos by raising awareness between departments, and encourages active information sharing," Gensler said. For those reasons, it said, many organizations are opting for more open spaces.
Eliminating the cubicle and walled-in workspaces could become the norm in office design. Architectural and interior design firm Ted Moudis Associates (TMA) said in a 2018 report that today's offices have more space for collaboration between workers. In fact, in an emailed statement, the firm said that the average square footage per seat for activity-based projects expanded by 18 feet in just two years.
Open, more spacious office design is a trend, but it doesn't always translate into more face time between workers. Two Harvard University field studies found that face-to-face communication between employees fell by 70% after transitioning them to an open office design plan. But questions about open office plans had already surfaced before those studies were published. Apple employees threatened to quit their jobs after the company built a $5 million state-of-the-art facility with open-office space two years ago. The employees rejected the design on the basis that they needed private workspace for creative work.
In building or redesigning office space, employers may want to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach and reserve areas for work requiring focus and concentration and private, noise-free meetings.