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Oscar Berg is a senior consultant, working with strategy, business analysis, and architecture within Enterprise Collaboration. Oscar has been writing about how to use social technologies for business purposes on his blog The Content Economy since 2007, and since 2011 as contributing author for CMS Wire. Oscar is passionate about creating solutions that make work and life simpler for people. He has been a frequent speaker at various intranet conferences in the Nordic countries, and at European conferences such as the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, Social Business Forum in Milan, and Social Now in Portugal. Oscar is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 43 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Is the Office Really the Best Place to Get Work Done?

04.28.2013
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Yahoo’s decision to ban working from home can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention. Whatever the reasons might be, to me their decision sends out a signal of desperation and reveals that Yahoo's management is incapable of dealing with flexible working.

"Green Paper - Managing in a Flexible Work Environment" from Australian Institute of Management

In some respects, the flexible work environment presents a more demanding context for managers. In this complex or heightened environment deficiencies in management skills development more generally are foregrounded. In effect management weaknesses -
irrespective of context - are exposed, opening the opportunity to better target skills development as a consequence.
   

A major challenge to implementing flexible work is attitudinal. Business owners or senior executives may perceive that flexible work arrangements are associated with a lack of commitment to the organisation. Perhaps resistance comes from a busy line manager, fearful that implementation of flexible work arrangements will become yet another item on an already crowded ―to do list. Or again, colleagues may resent flexible work as a privilege extended only to the lucky few. 

Research shows that underlying this attitude is a set of assumptions about the idea of the "ideal worker": someone who is able to work full time, and to be solely committed to their job, because they are supported by someone outside the workplace who attends to their non work needs. Such a worker may have been the norm in the past, but this is no longer the case. Work is no longer neatly contained between set hours. Workers have a multiplicity of  non-work responsibilities and interests which they seek to balance against their work roles. 

Nevertheless, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the ―ideal worker continues to shape expectations in the workplace. Until this assumption is challenged, flexible work may be perceived as a curiosity, privilege, nuisance or unnecessary cost. 

"Why You Should Work From a Coffee Shop, Even When You Have an Office" by Wesley Verhoeve, Lifehacker

While team Family Records was in between offices in early 2012, we had 6 weeks to bridge until our new space was ready. During that time we were fortunate enough to be taken in as guests byawesome companies for stretches of time, and for the remainder we took over corners of coffee shops all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. The experience of working out of coffee shops was so positive that even after we moved into our new home, I made sure to get in a few "coffee shop days" each month. For carpal tunnel related reasons alone, I would not recommend working out of coffee shops every day, but here are some reasons why it might be great to try it for one or two days every month

A change of environment stimulates creativity. Even in the most awesome of offices we can fall into a routine, and a routine is the enemy of creativity. Changing your environment, even just for a day, brings new types of input and stimulation, which in turn stimulates creativity and inspiration. 

Fewer distractions. It sounds counter-intuitive, but working from a bustling coffee shop can be less distracting than working from a quiet office. Being surrounded by awesome team and officemates means being interrupted for water cooler chats and work questions. Being interrupted kills productivity. The coffee shop environment combines the benefit of anonymity with the dull buzz of exciting activity. Unlike working at home, with the ever-present black hole of solitude and procrastination, a coffee shop provides the opportunity of human interaction, on your terms. 

Community and meeting new people. Meeting new people always provides me with new ideas, a different perspective at existing problems, or an interesting connection to a new person doing something awesome that inspires me. Today alone I met a top Skillshare teacher whose class I will now take, a sleep consultant, a publicist who offered to help with a project, and a wine consultant who recommended some bars.

"They Work Long Hours, but What About Results?" by Robert C Pozen, The New York Times

IT’S 5 p.m. at the office. Working fast, you’ve finished your tasks for the day and want to go home. But none of your colleagues have left yet, so you stay another hour or two, surfing the Web and reading your e-mails again, so you don’t come off as a slacker. 

By applying an industrial-age mind-set to 21st-century professionals, many organizations are undermining incentives for workers to be efficient. If employees need to stay late in order to curry favor with the boss, what motivation do they have to get work done during normal business hours? After all, they can put in the requisite “face time” whether they are surfing the Internet or analyzing customer data. It’s no surprise, then, that so many professionals find it easy to procrastinate and hard to stay on a task. 

There is an obvious solution here: Instead of counting the hours you work, judge your success by the results you produce. Did you clear a backlog of customer orders? Did you come up with a new idea to solve a tricky problem? Did you write a first draft of an article that is due next week? Clearly, these accomplishments — not the hours that you log — are what ultimately drive your organization’s success.

"Open-plan offices make you less productive" by Vatsal Anand, Onlymyhealth

In a study on the impact of open-plan office environment on the productivity and well-being of employees, researchers have found that it is not the best. The new study claims that the commotion of a modern office leads to a drop in productivity by 15 percent and well-being of workers by 32 percent. According to study researchers, the unwanted noise and other aspects of such an office can distract their brain from the task without them even noticing.  

Open-plan offices were designed with the objective of promoting interaction among the workers. It was expected that such a free interaction would promote creative thinking and result in better problem solving approach. Study researcher Dr. Jack Lewis has discredited the wisdom of thinking on these lines. He states that such a work environment is not conducive for the concentration of the workers. If a phone goes off in the background while you were concentrating on something important, the resultant interruption is a waste.  

The brain can respond to distractions without the person even being aware of it.
Similarly, in modern offices, if the employees are not allowed to have their own decorations on walls and desks, it is not conducive to their welfare. Workers should be allowed to personalise their working area. It improves their productivity and well-being as with a surrounding of their choice, they feel more engaged and comfortable, and are able to concentrate much better.
Published at DZone with permission of Oscar Berg, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)