1 OCTOBER 2014 HBR.ORG REPRINT R1410C SPOTLIGHT ON THE 21ST-CENTURY WORKSPACE Balancing “We” and “Me” The best collaborative spaces also support solitude. by Christine Congdon, Donna Flynn, and Melanie Redman This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
2 SPOTLIGHT ON THE 21ST-CENTURY WORKSPACE Michael Wolf ARTWORK The Transparent City 11, 2008 Spotlight This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact October 2014 2 Harvard Business Review [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
3 HBR.ORG FOR ARTICLE REPRINTS CALL 800-988-0886 OR 617-783-7500, OR VISIT Balancing “We” and “Me” The best collaborative spaces also support solitude. by Christine Congdon, Donna Flynn, and Melanie Redman This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
4 ON THE 21ST-CENTURY WORKSPACE SPOTLIGHT THE OPEN OFFICE In fact, 74% of the people we surveyed said they’re has a lot of critics these days. But more concerned about their privacy now than they were 10 years ago. it remains the dominant form of Leaving the office to work at home or in coffee workplace design for a reason: shops or libraries isn’t the answer—at least not for the long term. Too much remote work creates its own set It can foster collaboration, promote of problems, such as diminished knowledge transfer, decreased engagement, cultural disconnect, and a learning, and nurture a strong culture. slew of new distractions. And, of course, it makes It’s the right idea; unfortunately, it’s collaboration more difficult. Steelcase has been exploring the issue of privacy often poorly executed—even as a since the 1980s, and over the years we’ve worked with thousands of organizations in many industries way to support collaboration. to develop open office environments. Recently we conducted a study of workplaces and workers in There’s a natural rhythm to collaboration. People Europe, North America, and Asia, using surveys, eth need to focus alone or in pairs to generate ideas or - process information; then they come together as nographic research, observations, and interviews to a group to build on those ideas or develop a shared update our understanding. Here we present new in - point of view; and then they break apart again to take sights into the nature of privacy and offer strategies next steps. The more demanding the collaboration that allow employees to get away without going away. task is, the more individuals need punctuating mo - ments of private time to think or recharge. Redefining Privacy at Work Companies have been trying for decades to find - Researchers—and architects—have traditionally de the balance between public and private workspace fined privacy at work in physical terms: acoustical that best supports collaboration. In 1980 our research (Can we hear each other?), visual (Can we see each found that 85% of U.S. employees said they needed other?), and territorial (Do I have a place that’s just places to concentrate without distractions, and 52% for me?). But in today’s workplace, we’re always con - said they lacked such spaces. In response, thousands nected, always reachable, and to some extent always of high-walled cubicles took over the corporate land findable, in both the physical and the virtual sense. - That accessibility can enhance our interactions but scape. By the late 1990s, the tide had turned, and only can also leave us feeling overexposed. 23% of employees wanted more privacy; 50% said So we need to rethink our basic assumptions they needed more access to other people, and 40% about privacy. At Steelcase, we believe that privacy wanted more interaction. Organizations responded has two distinct dimensions. by shifting their real estate allocation toward open spaces that support collaboration and shrinking ar - Information control. Employees today wage a constant battle to protect and manage access to their eas for individual work. But the pendulum may have personal information. Over the course of a day, we swung too far: Our research now suggests that once shift constantly between revealing and concealing again, people feel a pressing need for more privacy, aspects of ourselves and our work to and from oth not only to do heads-down work but to cope with the - intensity of how work happens today. ers: Who needs access to these project files? How can The open plan is just one of the culprits assault I keep coworkers from seeing sensitive information - on my computer screen? Where can I have a confi ing our privacy. The increased focus on collaborative - work means we’re rarely alone, and the ubiquity of dential conversation without being overheard? Can mobile devices means we’re always accessible. In I read an article or check my Twitter feed at my desk light of these pressures, it’s not surprising that the without fear that people will think I’m slacking? number of people who say they can’t concentrate Technology has further challenged our sense of at their desk has increased by 16% since 2008, and personal sovereignty. Social media in particular have the number of those who don’t have access to quiet done more than any other force to compromise our places to do focused work is up by 13%. Meanwhile, ability to control our information. Facebook, for ex - people are finding it harder to control who has access ample, allows us to curate what we share about our - to their personal information, at work and elsewhere. selves—but only up to a point. Even those who opt This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact COPYRIGHT © 2014 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Harvard Business Review October 2014 4 [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
5 HBR.ORG FOR ARTICLE REPRINTS CALL 800-988-0886 OR 617-783-7500, OR VISIT Idea in Brief THE CHALLENGE THE FINDING THE SOLUTION Open offices are supposed to Privacy has traditionally been Privacy does not compromise promote collaboration, but defined in physical terms, collaboration but can people just don’t like them but we need to think about nurture it. By improving much. Companies have been it differently. Privacy is really privacy—providing spaces trying for decades to find the about the individual’s ability where employees can be balance between public and (what information to control by themselves and tune out private workspace that best information others need to distractions—you enrich and supports collaboration. know, both personal and strengthen collaborative professional) and stimulation activities. (any sort of disruption). out of popular social media sites have a hard time hiding from Google. What if we really don’t want coworkers to know where we live, what religion we practice, what music we listen to, or how old we GO TO HBR.ORG are? We have to make conscious decisions about Visit this article online to take a short survey and how we manage our personal information and act see how your workspace on those decisions vigilantly. If we don’t—and most compares with others’. of us don’t—then we’re left feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. The second dimension of Stimulation control. privacy encompasses the noises and other distrac - tions that break concentration or inhibit the ability to focus. Stimulation control is in some ways more variable and idiosyncratic than information control. One person’s distraction may be another’s comfort - ing white noise. And on any given day, our notion of distraction can change. Sometimes we might find background music soothing; other times it might be annoying. However we define them, we all need ways to manage distractions. Fundamentally, stimulation control governs the ability to focus attention. In thinking about office Inside the U.S. Workplace design, it’s helpful to understand that neuroscience SQUARE FEET Today more than research identifies three basic modes of attention. 225 PER WORKER 70% of employees IN 2010 working on a task that : controlled attention The first is requires intense focus, such as writing or thinking work in an open 190 deeply, while willfully avoiding unrelated thoughts office environment, IN 2013 and inhibiting external stimuli. When we are in this and the size of mode, interruptions and other distractions are un - their individual welcome, and our need to control the environment workspaces is around us increases. The second mode is stimulus-driven attention : shrinking. switching focus when something catches our atten - tion. When we’re performing routine tasks—respond - ing to e-mails, scheduling meetings, or catching up on other administrative work—we may tolerate or even welcome interruptions or distractions. Many people choose to perform routine tasks in open, so - cial, or active settings. INTERNATIONAL FACILITY MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION AND CORENET GLOBAL SOURCE This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact October 2014 Harvard Business Review 5 [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
6 ON THE 21ST-CENTURY WORKSPACE SPOTLIGHT HBR.ORG For a look at workplace dynamics around the world, visit Christine Congdon’s article “How Culture rejuvenation —the periodic We call the third mode then synthesized the data with our ongoing ethno - Shapes the Office” respites from concentration that we take throughout graphic research. Most findings were consistent with (HBR May 2013). the day. It’s a time-out for our brains and bodies and earlier research, but a few surprised us. often a chance to engage socially with others or ex Attitudes toward personal space differ greatly - from country to country. Germans allocate an aver press emotions that we’ve kept on a tight leash. For - rejuvenation, people may seek either a highly stimu - age of 320 square feet per employee; Americans, an average of 190. For workers in India and China, the - lating environment or a quiet one, depending on per figures are 70 and 50 square feet respectively. Yet de - sonal preference. The need to control stimulation as we switch spite their relatively dense workspaces, both Indian among the three modes means that we require a va and Chinese workers rated their work environments - highly in terms of their ability to concentrate and riety of workspaces that afford more or less privacy. work without disruption. The challenge is to find the right balance of social That finding points to a significant cultural differ and private and to provide spaces that enhance all - three modes. ence. In China people don’t think about individual privacy in the same way that Westerners do. Chinese workers are most concerned about information con - Privacy Across Cultures While the need for privacy is universal, the ways it trol: keeping personal data private and seeking refuge is experienced across cultures vary. To better un from the feeling of being watched. Thus, in China, - where offices are organized so that managers can derstand the similarities and differences around the easily keep tabs on workers, people tend to duck into world, Steelcase partnered with the global research hallways or bathrooms for a moment alone. Offices firm Ipsos to conduct surveys in 14 countries; we that allow workers to have their backs to the wall are considered prime real estate. In India it’s not uncom - mon for workers to seek out pockets of privacy—in unoccupied nooks on the periphery of workspaces, HOW EMPLOYEES FEEL in storage areas, or along walls. Among Western workers, by contrast, the issue of ABOUT THE WORKPLACE We surveyed employees around the world on three dimensions of stimulation control tends to take center stage: Only privacy critical to workplace satisfaction. Surprisingly, Indian and 55% of the workers we surveyed said they are able to Chinese workers, who have significantly smaller individual spaces work in groups without being interrupted. Less than and denser office environments, ranked highest. half say they can choose where they want to work within the office on the basis of the task at hand. In PERCENTAGE OF WORKERS KEY 100 our research, the adjective Americans used most fre - ABLE TO CONCENTRATE EASILY ABLE TO WORK IN TEAMS quently to describe their workplaces was “stressful.” WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED The adjective Chinese workers used most was “calm - ABLE TO CHOOSE WHERE TO WORK IN THE OFFICE 80 ing.” (Then again, it’s perfectly acceptable in China to ACCORDING TO THE TASK AT HAND take a nap at work.) When it comes to heads-down focus, however, American workers give their office environments rela - 60 tively high marks, despite the vocal complaints heard in social media and other forums. A surprising 70% of workers in the United States say their workplace 40 provides the ability to concentrate easily. Because cu - bicles still dominate the North American office land - scape, and more real estate is allocated for individual 20 workspaces than for collaboration activities, we be - lieve that the reported frustrations are quite likely being exacerbated by factors other than the physical 0 environment—such as the intense pace of work. INDIA CHINA SPAIN RUSSIA UNITED UNITED MEXICO TURKEY POLAND FRANCE Overall, workers in European countries (except CANADA STATES BELGIUM GERMANY KINGDOM in the Netherlands) were the most dissatisfied with NETHERLANDS This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact Harvard Business Review October 2014 6 [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
7 HBR.ORG FOR ARTICLE REPRINTS CALL 800-988-0886 OR 617-783-7500, OR VISIT their ability to control their privacy and were more REDEFINING likely to be dissatisfied with their work environ - PRIVACY ment in general. Of the workers in our survey who The ubiquity of electronic devices and connectivity means that ranked as the most highly dissatisfied and disen - privacy in the workplace can no longer be thought of strictly gaged, 53% came from France, Germany, Spain, in physical terms. Today privacy is about employees’ need to and Belgium. The cultural norm in those countries in three key realms. stimulation and information control is that work happens in the office, generally at an assigned workspace, and opportunities to seek solitude or achieve greater levels of privacy are of - Outgoing Incoming ten limited. In the Netherlands, by contrast, there’s INFORMATION STIMULATION greater comfort with letting people work from a How much do I want colleagues How can I limit interruptions diverse range of spaces, inside and outside the of - to know about my personal by coworkers? fice. Moreover, the Dutch are more egalitarian than interests? their neighbors when it comes to office design. How can I avoid constant Privacy considerations are not based on status, SOCIAL Should I connect with colleagues exposure to the noise and and leaders work alongside employees of all levels on social media? activity of others? in open spaces. This might explain why the Dutch accounted for almost half of satisfied and engaged Can I opt out of giving biometric Do I want pop-up previews of employees. (For a country-by-country comparison, data used for security purposes? incoming e-mails? see the exhibit “How Employees Feel About the Workplace.”) Can I shield my name from I need to focus: Is it OK to turn While privacy means different things in differ - feedback to superiors? off instant messaging? - ent cultures, our study showed that workplace sat TECHNOLOGICAL isfaction and engagement are deeply connected to Can people see my computer What space configuration a sense of control over one’s environment. In our screen while I’m working? minimizes my exposure to study, 98% of the most highly engaged employees flickering fluorescent lights? reported that they had “the ability to concentrate What personal photos or SPATIAL easily” in their workplace and that this attribute is artifacts do I want to display? How can I block out my a top factor in their satisfaction. They also scored neighbor’s phone conversations? high on “being able to work in teams without being disrupted” and “being able to choose where to work according to the task at hand”—other factors criti - cal to high engagement and satisfaction. Conversely, highly disengaged and dissatisfied employees strug Some of us find deep Strategic anonymity. - privacy in the middle of a crowd of strangers. When gled with disruptions and felt they had very little people go to a café to do focused work, they are often control over where or how they worked. Only 15% trying to inhibit the social distractions they face in said they could concentrate easily. their workplace. Recent research by Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu, and Amar Cheema in the Journal of Consumer Personal Strategies for Privacy Research shows that working in an environment In addition to local culture, factors such as organi - with a moderate level of ambient background noise zational culture, the type of task one is engaged in, can enhance performance on creative tasks. Many mood, and individual personality shape how much people enjoy the hum of activity in cafés or airports, privacy people require and the way they achieve where they can work, read, or relax without disrup it. For example, introverts tend to gravitate toward - places where they feel that they have the most con tion. The key is that it’s strategic: Individuals choose - when and how to make themselves anonymous. trol over stimulation. Susan Cain’s recent study of introverts argues that they are not shy; rather, they In today’s world, where Selective exposure. are more sensitive to stimuli than extroverts are. Our our personal information is being shared and de - research pointed to five privacy strategies that peo - manded across new channels in exponentially higher degrees, the boundaries between what is and ple use, sometimes unconsciously, to control both isn’t private are constantly shifting. People choose to stimulation and information. This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact Harvard Business Review 7 October 2014 [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
8 SPOTLIGHT ON THE 21ST-CENTURY WORKSPACE they have visual and acoustical privacy if they need reveal some information to certain people or groups, respite or to focus intently on a project. Others may while sharing different information with others. In choose to eat lunch in the farthest empty corner of the physical sense, this may mean choosing whether to share a particular document with a coworker or a cafeteria. Stepping outside to sit in a quiet court - deciding what personal artifacts to display at work. yard and taking a short walk are other ways people It could also be about making a decision to use the seek alone time. phone instead of video chat if we don’t want others to be able to see us. Organizational Strategies for Privacy Privacy doesn’t just Entrusted confidence. As organizations come to understand the need for privacy at work, they must also recognize that pri mean being alone. There are many contexts in the - MANAGE workplace where groups of individuals need to have - vacy does not compromise collaboration. By improv DISTRACTION private conversations. Some moments of entrusted ing privacy you can actually enrich and strengthen % of respondents who confidence, such as performance reviews, may be collaborative activities. agree that their work scheduled and planned. More often, they happen Organizations have a range of strategies they can environment allows them spontaneously, such as when colleagues need to implement, but the success of any of them depends to concentrate easily discuss a sensitive problem that has cropped up; and on a supporting culture that gives employees control MOST SATISFIED WORKERS at these times it can be difficult to find an available over where and how they work and how they man - 98% conference room. In workplaces that are highly open, age their privacy. Cultures are built and reinforced we see greater demand for dedicated conference or when people exhibit certain behaviors over time and project rooms that teams or individuals can easily ac those behaviors are articulated, adopted, and em - - cess, where they feel secure sharing confidences. braced across the organization. Leaders who model HIGHLY DISSATISFIED WORKERS the desired behaviors give implicit permission to oth - People talk about feeling Intentional shielding. 15% “violated” when they think they’re being watched or ers to follow suit and send the message “This is how eavesdropped on. They use a variety of shielding tac we work here.” - Some strategies demand an investment in new tics to protect themselves. We often see people go to kinds of space, but others require only modest re an enclosed location to take a call, or walk in public - TAKE A BREAK % of respondents who areas where they are less likely to be overheard. Many configurations along with behavioral and cultural agree that they can socialize people avoid working in spaces where they can’t see changes. Here are four effective options: and have informal, relaxed coworkers approaching. Others engage in intentional Organizations can lay down rules Protocols. conversations with their shielding by keeping their own counsel, protecting that define acceptable behaviors about privacy. colleagues their individual thoughts and ideas so that they can Protocols can be companywide or specific to cer - develop a point of view without the distracting influ tain departments, times, or places. For example, an - MOST SATISFIED organization might choose to designate a particu - ence of “groupthink” or peer pressure. WORKERS - Isolation is largely a mat Purposeful solitude. lar time for quiet work in one or multiple locations. 96% Or it might decide that music or videos should be - ter of circumstance and state of mind: Your physi only experience. Leaders should a headphones- cal location, your habits, and your attitudes can all communicate the protocols clearly and explain the conspire to make you feel isolated from a group. But HIGHLY DISSATISFIED rationales behind them. Many workplace protocols solitude is intentional; you make a conscious choice WORKERS 35% have gone by the wayside when people don’t un to separate from a group in order to concentrate, re - - charge, express emotion, or engage in personal activ - derstand them or forget what type of behavior is ap - propriate. To sustain the adoption of these practices, ities. Some people may choose a closed space where Employees can use a host of props or devices to establish boundaries, but gadgets won’t work unless they’re backed up by a culture that respects the need for privacy. This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact October 2014 8 Harvard Business Review [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.
9 FOR ARTICLE REPRINTS CALL 800-988-0886 OR 617-783-7500, OR VISIT HBR.ORG many executives are granted spacious, enclosed of encourage supportive but honest conversations - when protocols are broken and clearly communi fices that often sit empty because of travel or meet - - cate the consequences for repeat offenses. ing schedules. These could be redesigned to allow other people to use them productively when their Signaling. Signals are similar to protocols, but primary users are off-site. Like others in the orga rather than being established by the organization, - they are adopted by employees themselves to com - nization, many leaders simply need access to an en - municate their privacy requirements to others. In closed space for certain tasks when they are on-site. many offices earbuds are an accepted way of sig Whether owned or shared, enclosed spaces are - more effective when they allow users to control naling “do not disturb”; some people wear noise- stimulation. Sound, for instance, travels like water, canceling headphones to make their point even more WORK WHERE seeping through partitions and gaps in walls and obvious. People can also signal a desire for privacy by YOU WANT ceilings. Enclosed spaces make it easier to avoid how they orient themselves in a room: Facing others % of respondents who overhearing conversations that everyone prefers to encourages interaction; tucking behind a screen or a agree that they can choose keep private. Such spaces should also take into ac large plant says “I’m trying to be alone.” - where they wish to work Employees can find a host of props or devices to count visual distractions. The trend toward greater within the office according to the task at hand help them establish privacy boundaries with their transparency has led to more glass walls, especially coworkers. But even the most sophisticated gadget in spaces that are situated near windows, but they MOST SATISFIED WORKERS won’t work unless it’s backed up by a culture that can lead to the unpleasant feeling of “working in a 86% respects the individual’s need for privacy. Leaders fishbowl.” A simple band of frosted glass does a great should make it clear that employees must respect pri deal to reinforce the privacy of such areas. - “Shielded” spaces can also be used to provide vacy signals in open spaces and support individuals’ sufficient privacy for many tasks. These areas are efforts to control their information and stimulation. HIGHLY DISSATISFIED WORKERS generally semi-enclosed, made with partial-height - There are two pri Strategic space planning. 14% walls or portable screens. When combined with - mary design approaches for accommodating pri appropriate protocols, the boundaries signal “Do vacy needs in the physical workspace: the distrib - not disturb.” They are particularly effective when uted model and the zone model. In the distributed placed in quiet zones. They’re also a low-cost solu model, spaces that support stimulation control are - AVOID INTERRUPTIONS blended into areas for both individual and group tion: In one of our spaces, designers used everyday % of respondents who work. This model makes it easy for people to shift objects such as books and plants and simple con - agree that they can work quickly between modes of work. For instance, a - figurations of the furnishings to discourage conver in teams without being worker may need to focus deeply while preparing sations. Without any explicit communication, the disrupted for a meeting, move to a nearby project room to col space clearly told people that it was intended for - MOST SATISFIED WORKERS individual, quiet work. laborate, and afterward break away with one other 95% person to concentrate on a task. Physical proximity of these spaces facilitates quick switching between OPEN OFFICES are not inherently good or bad. The key work modes. to successful workspaces is to empower individuals The zone model defines certain locations by giving them choices that allow control over their HIGHLY DISSATISFIED WORKERS within the larger workplace as private, quiet spaces. work environment. When they can choose where 13% Organizations may designate a particular area or and how they work, they have more capacity to draw even an entire floor or building as a sort of “library” or energy and ideas from others and be re-energized by 2014 WELL-BEING IN THE SOURCE OFFICE STUDY, STEELCASE AND IPSOS quiet hub. In this model, the private zones are physi moments of solitude. Providing the ability to move - easily between group time and individual private cally separate from open areas. This approach can be time creates a rhythm—coming together to think especially useful in managing noise disruptions. about a problem and then going away to let ideas ges - An ecosystem of spaces. Our studies show that the most successful work environments provide a tate—that is essential to the modern organization. range of spaces—an ecosystem—that allow people to R1410C HBR Reprint choose where and how they get their jobs done. In some situations, individuals need their own Christine Congdon is the director of research Donna Flynn communications at Steelcase. is the enclosed space for regular use. But design and al - director of Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures research group. location of such space needs to shift from being is a senior design researcher with Melanie Redman based to being needs-based. For example, hierarchy- WorkSpace Futures Explorations at Steelcase. This document is authorized for use only by richard benoit ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact October 2014 Harvard Business Review 9 [email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies.