The debate over the open office trend reignited recently with the contention that it's destroying the workplace.
In our own business, we actually find support for open offices quite common from business owners and senior managers who want to feel connected to their companies' day-to-day operations. And of course, it doesn't hurt that open layouts are incredibly efficient, at least from a square footage per person standpoint.
The criticisms of open offices, however, pinpoint a lack of efficiency when it comes to workforce perfomance. Some research suggests that employees simply can't concentrate in these "collaborative" atmospheres, and that whatever the gains greater interactivity with teammates offers, they pale in comparison to the productivity lost.
I mention all this because the open office, regardless of your take on its effectiveness, is usually lofted as an example of evolved thinking when it comes to the workplace. At least companies are willing to challenge long-held notions of how an office is supposed to look and function, right? And this same willingness to rethink the workplace is usually credited with the shift toward remote work arrangements and more flexible hours. That is, the old constraints of where and when you do your work are giving way to a more nuanced understanding of what fuels productivity.
The difference between the open office trend and the move toward flexible work arrangements, however, is that the former is an employer-driven trend (we cited, for example, the need for efficient space). The latter, as we discovered in a recent study, is employee-driven.
That difference is important because it may indicate a divide between employers and employees on what makes for an effective workplace. Employers seem to think it's the open office. A growing number of employees think it's someplace besides the office.
We surveyed over 300 employees and 50 companies with Justworks to gauge the level of importance they place on workplace flexibility.
Unsurprisingly, we found that a majority (68 percent) think the availabilty of flexible work hours is very important, while 70 percent think it has a positive impact on team performance. So much so, that nearly half (42 percent) of repsondents indicated a wilingness to change jobs for 10 percent less pay if it meant getting flexible work hours.
Again, it's interesting to relate the perceived impact of flexible work hours on performance, to the perceived impact of open office space on performance found in other recent studies. They're inverse. Could it be that distracting open office layouts are prompting people to seek asylum elsewhere, whether it be the comfort of their own homes, coworking or a nearby Starbucks?
Employers, it seems, are getting the message. Of the 50 employers surveyed, 70 percent also indicated that flexible work hours is the perk most likely to positively impact team performance (68 percent believe it positively impacts individual performace).
When asked which perk employees were more likely to abuse, on the other hand, 44 percent of employers indicated working remotely poses the biggest risk — even more so than unlimited PTO (24 percent).
Flexible hours, it seems, offers a happy medium between working remotely and sitting at your office work station all day.
As you'll see in the infographic below, employers' policies are starting to closely match employee attitudes on the impact of flexibility in the workplace.