When designing or upgrading an office space, your choice of layout will have a massive impact not only upon the aesthetics and feel of the working environment, but also the performance of those working within. We’ve discussed many-a-time the ongoing debate concerning the benefits and downfalls of open-plan spaces as compared to a more traditional, cubicle-orientated setup, but it is also importance to consider the distribution of the workforce itself and how they are arranged, as evidenced in a recent report which suggested that when offices are arranged according to individual departments, efficiency and collaboration suffer as a result.

The report, conducted by digital consultancy firm Red Badger and titled ‘Agile Ways of Working: The Great Leadership Disconnect’, shows that while 64% of senior executives say their offices are still structured on a traditional departmental basis, a staggering 94% believe that if seating plans were rethought so as to promote a more collaborative approach, project efficiency on the whole could be greatly improved. On top of this, 81% of surveyed digital leaders strongly believe that an inflexible office layout has directly led to delays in launching a product or service.

“Waterfall” ways of working (62%) and teams working on multiple projects at once (51%) were also among the most cited reason for delays in the past.

Those working in offices arranged according to departments were also found to be more likely to agree with the statement that the current lack of flexibility in the office layout is causing delays in regards to current projects and their completion than those arranged into project teams (33% as compared to 17%).

Despite the above figures, all of which would highly suggest some form of change of undoubtedly necessary, the median length of time expected to pass before organisational changes actually take place is estimated at a substantial two years and eight months.

There is however an apparent difference between general business leaders and those in digital fields in regards to the aforementioned organisational changes and the reasoning behind their delay. Among general business leaders, 44% attributed their reluctance to make significant organisational changes to ‘a lack of skilled workers’, while 35% expressed concerns that such changes would be too difficult to implement.

Among digital leaders there is less concern regarding employee skills, rather these leaders state that a lack of senior management buy-in, “waterfall” ways of working, and a lack of flexibility in seating arrangements are the primary hurdles to overcome, as cited by 42%, 39%, and 38% of respondents respectively.

Cain Ullah, Founder and CEO of Red Badger, commented, “Departmental silos, and arranging offices in this way, feel like a hangover from a time when industrialised workers needed to be closely supervised to ensure that they completed tasks efficiently. In today’s economy, where skilled workers have more autonomy, these seating plans are outdated and as our research shows, are actually slowing organisations down.

“This puts organisations at significant risk; they are only as fast as their slowest moving department. With more and more companies looking to disrupt the larger organisations, transformation is needed much sooner than in three years’ time.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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