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Is Open Office Really Better Than Cubicles?

Is Open Office Really Better Than Cubicles?

For the last fifteen years, cubicles have been slowly disappearing from the work environment. What was originally developed to put character into assembly line types of offices is now considered soulless and impersonal. The open office model replaces the cube system as the best formula for workplace synergy, aiming to improve collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Open offices and flexible workspaces are spreading all over the world. In the United States alone, seventy percent (70%) of all offices have low or no dividing walls, with information technology firms as early advocates of the open office model.

Open Spaces: The Good and The Bad

Open offices are cost effective, mainly by maximizing floor space and lessening furniture overhead. More employees can be assigned on a floor with open offices compared to a floor with cubicles. A better sense of community is achieved with open offices, along with fostering cooperation, collaboration, innovation and creativity. The loudest advocates of open offices are those in information technology especially in Silicon Valley, advertising, and media.

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Barriers between managers and their subordinates are torn down with open offices, making management more approachable and accessible. Employees feel more like a part of a team, an enterprise that is, while more casual, innovative and dynamic. It also addresses the new kind of workforce, the mobile employees, who spend less than 60% of their time in the office. The rise of telecommuting and outsourcing contributes to underutilized workspace, one of the reasons why many companies, especially in the creative industries, opt for open offices. Some companies opt for open offices without permanent workstations for their employees, mobile or otherwise.

However, not everyone is sold on open offices. Privacy is lost on a table shared by many. People working on sensitive information would seek the privacy of conference rooms or smaller, private work areas (if any) to ensure security of data. Personal data almost becomes common knowledge with open spaces, due to close proximity of co-workers and also the lack of permanent workspace for others. The lack of permanent workstations can also add stress about privacy, with personal data trails left in the last workstation you used.

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While camaraderie amongst employees improved, it is also the biggest distraction. A false sense of productivity is created with open offices, where the chief complaints are the noise and loss of quiet time. It is difficult to concentrate on work when others are talking, discussing, and people drop by anytime. Another problem with open office is that it doesn’t recognize the fact that people work differently from others. The idea that one way of working is good for all, is wrong.  There is a time for concentration and a time to brainstorm. Most workers are forced to look for means to find time to concentrate, either by working outside the office, coming back to work at night, or buying noise-canceling earphones.

Cubicles: Simply Misunderstood?

Cubicles have been around since 1967, giving employees a small but rather cramped space of their own to work. These modular systems gave the illusion of having your own office, while at the same time giving managers a bullpen of talents to monitor with relative ease. The flexibility of the modular system allows the company to group teams faster, easier, with the idea of taking people of their offices to interact and collaborate more with their coworkers. The partitions of the cubicles give privacy and permanent space to each employee, alongside the accessibility. It also generally levels the playing field, with some team leaders or managers also working from a cubicle.

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Most of the fuss about cubicles is about how little space is assigned to each worker. With companies trying to maximize space, the envisioned flexible workspaces become cramped and impersonal. Having more cubicles means more noise and distraction and therefore less work done.

But really…

Despite all the fuss about cubicles, on how little space and privacy they offer, even more privacy and space is lost in open offices. Open offices give us less space. A study by the International Facility Management Association shows, that workers now work in smaller spaces than they were 2010, from 225 sq feet in 2010 down 35 square feet to 190 sq feet in 2013. And open offices are one of the reasons why privacy is at an all time low, with 74% of people surveyed by Harvard Business Review are more concerned now of their privacy than a decade ago.

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Open offices require teams or groups to share a table or workspace. Concentration is also at an all time low, with only half of western workers saying they are able to concentrate despite the noise and distractions. Job performance is an illusion with open spaces, and only a sense of privacy improves it. A study published in the Ergonomics journal has also found that those who work in open offices have higher rates of sick leaves.  Infection travels faster in groups than when you can control your personal environment.

While the growing trend is to redesign office spaces from cubicles to open spaces, not every one is jumping on the band wagon. Open spaces are not the end solution to efficiency and innovation. It works for some industries, but clearly not for others. Cubicles are here to stay and more office space is still set aside for individual private spaces rather than for collaboration.

Featured photo credit: Stephen Coles via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More About Continuous Growth

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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