Why Office Design
Matters Part II
Building the civilized
You want to concentrate and collaborate,
but how can you get the best of both worlds in your
current office set-up?
One factor that affects knowledge worker
performance that isn't well understood is the physical
work environment-the offices, cubicles, buildings,
and mobile workplaces in which knowledge workers
do their jobs. There is a good deal said about this
topic, but not much known about it. Even more
unfortunately, most decisions about the knowledge
work environment are made without seriously
considering their implications for performance.
Continued from last week
Knowledge workers move around in the
course of their work.
They need mobility and
spend a lot of time out of their offices. Several firms
that have observed their knowledge workers have
found that they spend up to half of their time out of
their offices-either in meetings, talking informally in
other peoples' offices, or traveling. As a result,
organizations need to provide them with the ability to
work and be productive outside of their offices. The
most obvious instantiation of mobile work
environments is the laptop computer, but there are
others-for example, access to physical work artifacts
such as books and files, the ability to use telephones,
computers, and messaging technologies while
Knowledge workers collaborate.
meet, they chat, they congregate. Office environments
need to facilitate the collaboration and exchange of
tacit (hard to express in explicit written terms)
knowledge. What does this mean? At a minimum,
there need to be meeting spaces and conference
rooms. Maximum facilitation would be to create a
variety of collaborative spaces, technologies, and
facilitation approaches for an array of collaborative
purposes. Technologies for collaboration-from
videoconferences to webcasting to shared networks-
are increasingly making a big difference in
collaboration, but users are frustrated by technical
difficulties in many cases. Very few, if any,
organizations have attempted to foster collaboration to
a high degree, in part because they haven't made the
effort to understand what kinds of collaboration are
Knowledge workers concentrate.
opposite side of the collaboration coin is the need to
concentrate at work. This requires a quiet setting with
relatively few distractions. Such an environment is
particularly important for knowledge creation
activities-thinking, writing, programming, designing,
and so forth. This takes up a widely varying proportion
of knowledge workers' time-some studies have
found, for example, that programmers spend only 20
to 30 percent of their time doing solo programming,
but others have found workers devoting up to 64
percent in "quiet work."5 Whatever the fraction of time,
it's important for the production of final knowledge
work outputs. Many organizations that have moved to
more open offices trumpet the benefits of increased
collaboration, but they discount the penalties incurred
on the concentration side.
Knowledge workers work in the office.
Despite many years of discussion about
telecommuting and telework, a very small
percentage-some studies suggest 5 percent-of
workers do "serious" (full-time or near-full-time)
telecommuting, and a good proportion of those are
administrative workers rather than knowledge
workers. Knowledge workers, like all other types of
workers, like flexibility, and they like to work at home
occasionally. However, they don't want their homes to
be their only offices. They know that to be constantly
out of the office is to be "out of the loop"-unable to
share gossip, exchange tacit knowledge, or build
social capital. This means that organizations should
not bother with office arrangements that assume full-
time telecommuting, even though occasional
telecommuting doesn't save companies any money. It
also means that firms that are committed to
telecommuting may be less attractive in the
knowledge worker labor market.
Knowledge workers communicate with people
who are close by.
Tom Allen, the dean of
researchers on the work behaviors of scientists and
engineers, found more than two decades ago that
technical workers (a proxy for knowledge workers)
whose desks are more than thirty meters apart have a
frequency of communications that is roughly zero.7
Some might argue that e-mail and instant messaging
have changed the relationship between physical
proximity and communication. However, I'd argue that
you rarely e-mail or IM intensely with someone you
don't know. Assuming it's still true, Allen's important
and oft-cited finding means that companies should
design work environments so that knowledge workers
who need to communicate are physically close to
each other. Of course, this requires some strategizing
about who needs to be talking with whom.
Organizations such as 3M and Herman Miller have
tried to do just that in the design of some of their
Firms that are committed to telecommuting
may be less attractive in the knowledge worker labor
Knowledge workers don't care about facilities
At least there is no evidence that
anyone ever took a job, stayed at a job, or worked
more productively because of foosball, pool, or ping-
pong tables, cappuccino bars, office concierges,
hearths, conversation pits, quiet rooms, lactation
rooms, creativity rooms, relaxation rooms, nap rooms,
etc., etc. In these lean and mean times, many workers
are even reluctant to be seen using these facilities for
fear that they won't be considered hardworking
enough. In any case, there's no clear relationship
between knowledge worker performance and various
appealing features of the work environment, though
they may help slightly with recruiting or morale. To my
knowledge only a couple of office furniture firms
(Herman Miller and Steelcase, to be precise) do much
to have an impact on such workplace innovations-
and their focus is on broad workplace changes, not on
architectural gewgaws-so we may never know for
certain whether they are worth the money and the
Despite the faddish nature of workspace design
and the absence of detailed knowledge on its
implications, many organizations truly believe in the
effects of the particular approaches they have
adopted. It is often assumed, for example, that open
offices lead to increased collaboration and open
communication. This was the goal at SEI Investments,
where all dividers were torn down in favor of a big
open room that, according to one SEI knowledge
worker we interviewed, "creates a fun environment in
which people can communicate freely." Of course, an
HR manager at SEI admitted that only about half of the
potential hires for the company thought they could
stand working in such an open environment, which
seems a high price to pay for architecture (although, to
be fair, SEI believes that the environment is a good
screening mechanism for the collaborative workers
they want to hire).
Certainly there are many occasions in which
chatting over cubicle walls has facilitated the flow of
information through knowledge work processes. Yet
we heard just as many anecdotes about workers who
stayed at home to do heads-down work because they
couldn't concentrate in the office. One knowledge
worker involved with highly sensitive political risk
analysis, for example, feared that his job performance
would be severely compromised as soon as the firm
moved to a completely open floor plan. And at
Monsanto (which later merged with Pharmacia &
Upjohn to form Pharmacia), where a business unit
had attempted to do away completely with private
offices to reduce hierarchy and increase
communication, senior officers of the unit eventually
erected their own private offices. Employees are
skeptical of open office arrangements and often
suspect (as do I) that the primary benefit of these
designs is the lower space costs of packing more
people into cubicle-structured space.
Similarly, mobility within the workspace and
outside of it is a frequently cited objective. This
obviously makes sense in industries such as
professional services, where workers must travel to
clients frequently. Yet we don't know what price
organizations pay in social capital when employees
are highly mobile and can't be easily located for a face-
to-face conversation. "Hoteling," for example, or the
assignment of workers to whatever workspace is
available when they come into the office, is clearly an
efficient means of allocating space to mobile workers,
but several firms that have experimented with it report
that it engenders about the same level of community
we find in an actual hotel. How many friends have you
made in hotels? When the person next door is
different every day, informal social relationships don't
Source: An excerpt from Thinking for a Living: How
to Get Better Performance and Results from
Knowledge Workers, by Thomas H. Davenport
Women are drivers of global growth
What do growth, expansion and prosperity have in
In French grammar they are feminine
and when it comes to facts and figures they are
feminine as well.
Forget China, India and even
new technologies - for the past 10 years the number
one vector for global growth has been women.
Since 1970, women have held two out of three
new jobs. According to The Economist, which
compiled studies from a number of research firms,
the arrival of this new workforce has done more to
encourage global growth than increases in capital
investment and improvements in productivity. "Over
the last 10 years the increase in women [in the
workplace] in developed countries has made more of
a contribution to global growth than China has,"
concludes the British weekly.
Let us look at France and the US. The female
workforce is growing at an increasingly rapid rate. At
the beginning of the 1950s, 7m women held a paying
job in France, or about a third of the working
population. Today women make up 47 per cent of the
workforce. A similar scenario applies to Sweden, the
UK and the US, where a third of women of working
age were employed in 1950 and two-thirds today. The
increased number of women in the working
population compensates for the negative
demographic effects of an ageing population and
lower birth rates. The same trend is now also visible
in emerging countries. South-east Asia's economic
success is due primarily to women, who hold two-
thirds of the jobs in the export industry, the region's
most dynamic sector.
So, will the workplace, where women have long
fought for their rightful place, become woman's
domain? One thing is certain: women's rise in power,
which is linked to the increase in wealth per capita, is
happening in all domains and at all levels of society.
Women are no longer content to provide efficient
labour or to be consumers with rising budgets and
more autonomy to spend. They are increasingly
becoming directors, managers and entrepreneurs.
Some studies have even shown a correlation between
the presence of women in managerial positions and a
company's financial results.
This is just the beginning. The phenomenon will
only grow as girls prove to be more successful than
boys in the school system and enrol in higher
numbers in universities. For a number of observers,
we have already entered the age of "womenomics",
the economy as thought out and practised by women.
Those Chinese who desire that their only child be
male may soon realise that a daughter could be a
better investment. Bosses know full well that a team of
both men and women is more creative and efficient
than one comprised of only men.
But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Despite their irrevocable rise in power, women remain
under- utilised and not only in emerging countries. In
Italy, for example, the number of working women is
still at only 40 per cent of the workforce. Even in
countries where there are a large number of women
doctors, lawyers and high-level executives, they
represent only a small percentage of surgeons,
partners and chief executives. It is true that the "glass
ceiling" that prevents women from reaching the
highest echelons is also, in part, in their heads.
Indeed, women seek happiness and an equilibrium in
their activities more than men and often find
themselves turning down responsibilities, citing the
sacrifice it could mean for their family life.
We could say that the judicial progress made,
such as the recent French law requiring equal pay for
men and women in the workplace, is merely an
opener for the work to come. If society wants to benefit
from women's resources and if companies want to
hold on to talent, they must create social protections to
neutralise the effects of interruptions in the career
path or offer the choice to accept fewer professional
obligations than a male counterpart.
"Womenomics" is not, as some would claim, a
passing fad, but rather a lasting trend. Women are on
centre stage when it comes to all vital issues:
healthcare, education, the environment and
demography. As women today are reaching positions
of power in massive numbers, their responsibility
towards the progress of society is growing. Women
want to assume this role and they will.
The writer is the founder and president of the
Women's Forum for the Economy and Society. The
annual meeting of the Women's Forum on the theme
of women's new responsibility for improving society
will be held in Deauville, France, October 5-7
Source: The Financial Times Limited
Why Office Design Matters Pt II
Women - The Drivers of Global Growth?
- Seventh Heaven For U.S. Commercial
Real Estate Market
- Has rational exuberance replaced cautious
optimism? A new survey of investor sentiment finds
that spiraling demand for commercial real estate
should persist through at least the end of 2007,
driving asset prices beyond their current record levels.
On Monday, Chicago-based law firm DLA Piper
released findings from its 2007 "State of the Market"
real estate survey. The survey, last conducted in
September 2005, polled 2,400 U.S. senior real estate
executives. Most respondents expect commercial real
estate fundamentals to continue firming up over the
next few months. A full 78% of respondents described
their 12-month outlook for commercial real estate
fundamentals as "bullish." By comparison, only 43%
of respondents felt "bullish" about the near-term
market fundamentals in September 2005.
- Buoyant Quarter For Brokerage Giant
- CB Richard Ellis announced a strong first quarter
today, boosting earnings per share by 59% during one
of the strongest global real estate markets in history.
CBRE generated revenue of $1.2 billion, up 61.6%
over the $751.3 million posted in the first quarter of
2006. The company also drew its revenues from a
diverse mosaic of business lines and markets.
"For the past 18 quarters, the company has been the
acknowledged market leader in most major business
centers worldwide," says Brett White, president and
CEO of CB Richard Ellis, who led the first quarter
earnings call today. "This dominant geographic
footprint coupled with the industry's most extensive
offering of client services and business lines, has
allowed us to leverage a favorable global marketplace
into exceptionally strong growth."
White says that the Trammell Crow integration
is "going extremely well and ahead of schedule." Last
Halloween, CBRE paid $2.2 billion for Trammell
Crow. The Trammell acquisition (and others) helped
generate roughly half of the 61% revenue growth that
CBRE achieved during the first quarter. Revenue for
CBRE's development services segment - acquired
through the Trammell Crow merger - totaled $17
million for the first quarter. CBRE also had $5.5 billion
in development projects underway at the end of March.
Source: NREI Newsline
|This Weeks Leads:
- Eastern Mountain Sports
- Eastern Mountain Sports, Inc. trades as Eastern
Mountain Sports at 69 locations throughout CA, CT,
DE, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA and VT.
- The stores, selling sporting goods and related
apparel, occupy spaces of approximately 7,500 sq.ft.
in strip and power centers, in addition to urban, tourist
and freestanding locations.
- Plans call for
additional openings in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
sections of the U.S. during the coming 18 months.
Typical leases run seven years.
- A vanilla shell
and specific improvements are required.
Preferred cotenants include upscale and
- For more information,
contact Mike Corrie, Eastern Mountain Sports, Inc., 1
Vose Farm Road, Peterborough, NH 03458; 603-924-
9571 Ext. 6082, Fax 603-924-9138.
- Steve & Barry's University Sportswear
- Steve & Barry's University Sportswear operates
191 locations in 33 states nationwide.
- The stores,
carrying private label merchandise with most items
priced at $9.98 or less, occupy spaces of 25,000 sq.ft.
to 150,000 sq.ft. in malls, lifestyle, power and strip
centers and urban/downtown areas.
- Plans call for
100 openings nationwide during the coming 18
- For more information, contact Doug
Calvin, Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, 12
Harbor Park Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050; 516-
267-7359, Fax 516-487-4361; Email:
email@example.com; Web site:
- Brookshire Grocery
- Brookshire Grocery Co. trades as Brookshire
Food Stores and Super 1 Stores at 155 locations
throughout AR, LA, MS and TX.
- The supermarkets,
offering gasoline facilities and a pharmacy, occupy
spaces of 30,000 sq.ft. to 70,000 sq.ft. in freestanding
locations, power and strip centers.
opportunities are sought throughout the existing
markets during the coming
- Typical leases run 15 to 20 years.
- Preferred demographics include a population of
13,000 within one mile earning $30,000 as the
average household income.
- Competition is cited
as Albertsons, Kroger and Wal*Mart Supercenter.
- A land area of five to six acres is required for
- The company prefers to
acquire its sites.
- For more information, contact
John Broderhausen, Brookshire Grocery Co., 1600
West Southwest Loop 323, Tyler, TX 75710; 903-534-
3000, Fax 903-534-2217; Web site:
- The Men's Wearhouse
- The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. trades as The Men's
Wearhouse at 530 locations nationwide.
men's off-price apparel stores occupy spaces of
6,000 sq.ft. to 7,000 sq.ft. in freestanding locations
and power centers.
- Growth opportunities are
sought nationwide during the coming 18 months.
- Typical leases run 10 years.
improvements are required.
demographics include a population of 150,000 within
five miles earning $50,000 to $75,000 as the average
- For more information, contact
Tom Jennings, The Men's Wearhouse, Inc., 40650
Encyclopedia Circle, Fremont, CA 94538; 510-657-
9821, Fax 510-723-8315; Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site:
- Nutty Bavarian
- Nutty Bavarian trades as The Nutty Bavarian at
400 locations worldwide.
- The stores, selling an
assortment of nuts, occupy kiosks in entertainment
and outlet centers, malls and tourist attractions.
Plans call for 100 openings in the existing markets
during the coming 18 months with interest in
auditoriums, theme parks and arenas.
leases run one year.
- Preferred demographics
include a population of 30,000 within a five-mile
radius earning an average household income of
- For more information, contact David
Zangenberg, Nutty Bavarian, 305 Hickman Drive,
Sanford, FL 32771; 407-444-6322, Fax 407-444-6335;
Email: email@example.com; Web site:
Bonneville Research is a Utah-based consulting
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Bob in Japan
From April 27th through
May 12th, Bob and his wife Gwen will be in Matsumoto
Gwen will be representing Salt Lake City as part of
the 100 year anniversary of the founding of Matsumoto
Japan - the first and most active of the Salt Lake City
Two of Bob & Gwen's children - Will (26) & Liza
have been living in Matsumoto this past year teaching
English as a second language.
Bob will be visiting with long time JC friends and
trying to stay out of trouble.
Matsumoto is in the Japanese Alps - close to the
of many of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Jon will be available to handle any issues or
questions that may come up.
The "Japan Alps" contain the highest peaks in
Japan after Fujiyama, and are very similar to the Alps
of Central Europe both in character of the landscape
and in the abundance of snow in winter.
The Alps attract large numbers of walkers and
climbers in summer and skiers in winter.
Matsumoto is at the "gateway" of the Japan Alps.