Thanks to Dale Pozzi from our New York office for passing along this guest post about London workplace strategist Paul Wheeler‘s recent appearance on BBC Radio:
The open workplan format is facing no small amount of scrutiny lately as a creativity killer. Among the most recent sources of controversy is the publication of new book, “QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” whose author, Susan Cain, posits that the open workplan may be stifling creativity.
Fortunately, advocates have Paul Wheeler to defend the cause (or at least to define it properly).
On Monday morning, BBC Radio’s Vanessa Feltz dedicated a portion of her program to an interview with Susan Firth, Occupational Psychologist, who challenges the open work model, citing the noise, interruptions, and spotty concentration associated with large, partionless spaces. All of these, she says, contribute significantly to reduced productivity and raised stress. The interview raises a critical question: Is the open workplace concept merely a perceived good, passing, unchallenged, from one real estate executive to another because it is cost efficient?
Enter HOK’s Paul Wheeler, who, as Workplace Strategist based in London, spends his days helping global clients like Eli Lilly and Zurich create innovative new approaches to working. BBC Radio invited Paul to join the program as an opposing view.
Paul, however, agreed. The open workplan can indeed be distracting and noisy, he says.
The problem is in assuming that a collaborative workplace must look (and function) like a warehouse full of desks. As designers, architects and consultants, says Wheeler, we need to listen very carefully to what clients and their end users are asking for… and then help them figure out what they actually need to work productively. In his call to cast aside severe and overbroad solutions, Wheeler reminded listeners that a good designer will create spaces that work well for the people who work within them — which should include providing the right amount of quiet spots for heads-down work as well as opportunities for creative collision.