Search for “open offices” on Google and prepare to be bewildered:
- “4 Reasons Why Open Concept Floor Plans Are Awesome”
- “It’s Official: Open Plan Offices Are Now the Dumbest Management Fad…”
- “A Defense of Open Office Plans…”
- “The Open Office Plan Is a Disaster”
Do you see a pattern?
For every article you see supporting open office layouts, you can find one (or ten) bemoaning them.
As a small business leader and project manager, you need reliable information on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to workplace effectiveness—not conflicting tips and questionable “hacks.”
Are open offices good for productivity, or will they drive your employees crazy? Is it OK to let your employees work remotely, or will they get nothing done without direct supervision?
You have plenty at stake here.
A 2017 Capterra survey found that growth is the primary goal among SMBs for the next two years. However, we’ve estimated that 40% of those SMBs won’t meet their growth goals unless they make significant improvements to employee effectiveness.
With those stakes in mind, let’s look at some common workplace effectiveness myths and why they’re busted. We’ll also talk about the best approach for cutting through the nonsense and building an effective workplace.
Myth #1: Open offices are more effective offices
THE MYTH: If you set up a bunch of laptops on long tables, you’ll save money on office space and your employees will be buzzing about like worker bees, collaborating on the next billion-dollar unicorn.
THE REALITY: The most productive workplaces balance open areas for collaboration work with private spaces for concentration work.
According to the 2016 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index, 56% of North American office workers say that loud coworkers distract them from doing their best work. That’s more than meetings (34%) and website browsing (21%) combined. And the second most common distraction reported—people coming to talk (47%)—is also open-office related.
Open offices have also been shown to make employees sick more often.
Myth #2: Remote workers are less engaged
THE MYTH: Your remote workers are sitting at home all day in their bathrobes, watching reruns of “Home Improvement” instead of getting their work done.
THE REALITY: A 2016 workplace study by Dell and Intel found that: “Half of global employees currently work remotely at least a few times a week, and value the ability to balance productivity and quality of life concerns in a remote environment.”
Workers also report that remote work allows them to concentrate better, achieve a healthier work-life balance, and spend more time with their families.
Myth #3: The more work employees have, the more effective they can be
THE MYTH: If an employee is able to finish their work by 3 p.m. one afternoon, or has a slow Friday, you need to pile on more work so they always have something to do.
THE REALITY: The counterintuitive truth, according to Capterra’s senior project management analyst Eileen O’Loughlin, is that, “The most immediate and cost-effective way to increase productivity is sometimes the hardest for business leaders to understand: Give employees less to do. Leave ‘slack’ in the system.”
According to Gartner analyst Robert Handler, the “sweet spot” for the most effective employees is actually between 70 to 80%. Try to squeeze anything more than that out of your employees—like an engine choked with too much fuel—and you’ll actually make them less effective and cost your organization more money.
Myth #4: The employees who arrive first and leave last are the most effective
THE MYTH: Your most effective employees, and those who should be considered future managers, are those who arrive before the sun comes up and turn the lights off when they leave the office 12 hours later.
THE REALITY: “First in, last out” is a noble motto for the U.S. Army Pathfinders and maybe NFL coaches, but it’s a wildly inappropriate standard to set for your employees.
If you’re trying to grow your small business, there will undoubtedly be some early mornings and late nights, but they should be few and far between and they should never be forced or even encouraged.
According to the Staples Business Advantage survey, 40% of North American workers feel burned out at work, with the biggest reasons for that burnout being workload (67%) and time pressures (55%). What’s worse, almost half of those burned-out employees (47%) say it’s motivating them to look for a new job.
Myth #5: Frequent breaks are counterproductive to effectiveness
THE MYTH: The employees who are always going for coffee, or hanging out in the break room, or going for walks, or hitting the gym during lunch aren’t doing as much as the employee who sits down at their desk at 9 a.m. with a giant cup of coffee and doesn’t get up again until they leave at 5 p.m.
THE REALITY: Working without breaks isn’t efficient. According to Psychology Today, taking periodic breaks can:
- Help you retain new information
- Replenish your motivation
- Improve your emotional and physical health
- Help you think through decisions better
- Increase your creativity and productivity
In other words—by taking regular, short breaks—the employees who seem to be away from their desks the most often are likely working much more effectively when they are at their desks than the employees who are in a semi-trance gazing into the abyss of their computer monitor for hours at a time.
The Staples Business Advantage survey numbers back this up as well: Nearly 80% of workers say that taking a break makes them feel more productive throughout the day.
You can use the Pomodoro Technique:
Basically, the Pomodoro Technique involves taking a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of work, with 15 to 30-minute breaks every couple hours.
Information on Capterra’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey:
We conducted this survey in April and May 2017 among 699 U.S.-based SMBs, with more than 10 employees and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.
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