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The REAL truth about open office spaces

February 18, 2020
clock 2 MIN READ

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published a study on open office spaces and collaboration. The study found that collaboration decreases by 70% when firms moved from a closed office space to an open one. At SEI, we’ve been working and collaborating successfully in our open-space environment for over 20 years in our Oaks, PA campus — so we decided to take a closer look at the study.

The HBR study looked at two different companies before and after each underwent a redesign to shift to an open environment. The first company’s data was collected for about 3 weeks before and 3 weeks after its redesign, while the second company’s data was collected for about 8 weeks before and 8 weeks after its redesign. Researchers gathered data from wearable devices to gain insight into face-to-face engagement and physical movement, as well as from messaging tools, emails and phone calls. Certainly a compelling assessment, right? How can one argue with a Harvard-based study using unbiased measuring devices, expansive data collection, two different companies and two different time periods? How could one draw any other conclusion other than open workspaces don’t work? 

It's about one word: CULTURE

The study was perfect in showing how a culture initially reacts to this physical transformation. But what it failed to show is how the physical transformation materially transforms a culture, because that takes time.

In "The REAL Truth About Open Office Spaces," I dive into four key truths about making a move to an open office space:

  • TRUTH 1: It’s not just about the space. It’s about culture.
  • TRUTH 2: Speaking from experience, it takes time. 
  • TRUTH 3: You need the right people leading the charge.
  • TRUTH 4: Open environments send important signals to prospective and current employees

Read the full paper.

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