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#TheFuturein5 Episode 34: Are Open Office Spaces Good or Bad?

05/05/2015 08:46 am ET | Updated May 05, 2016

This episode of The Future in Five I talk about open office spaces. There have been quite a few articles written recently around open office spaces and why we need to get rid of them, why they're bad for engagement, why they're bad for productivity, and on and on why they are so bad for organizations.

It's an interesting debate because years ago -- of course, we all remember -- most offices had cubicles. Cubicles and offices were sort of a symbol of hierarchy. The farther up you went in the food chain, the better office you had, the better seat you had. We went to this open office environment to help flatten the organization, and improve collaboration, creativity and communication. Now we're back to "square 1" where a lot of people are saying they're too distracting, they're getting sick because people are coughing on them, it's too noisy, they are introverts who need private time.

So which side is right? Is it better to have open office spaces? Do we need cubicles? What's going on? In this episode I discuss what I think we should focus on. I think some of these debates are a little silly because we're forgetting this whole other side of the discussion, which is that it's not just about the physical space. The physical space is just that -- space. I have seen and visited a variety of different organizations with different work styles. It's never just about the office itself, but also the surrounding environment. This includes management and leadership styles, corporate culture, workplace flexibility, perks and benefits, and is it a "cool" office environment or a boring one.

Also, when we think about the future of work, it is about customization. So instead of trying to pick one or the other, organizations need to think of how to create an environment that caters to all types of different work styles. So let's not focus on just open or just closed, but on how we can give employees the desired work styles and preferences they need to get their jobs done regardless of what their preferences are. Tune in for the full discussion and let me know what you think!

Jacob Morgan is a futurist, best-selling author and keynote speaker, learn more by visiting The Future Organization.com or check out his latest book,"The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders and Create a Competitive Organization," on Amazon.