MEREDITH Strategy & Design

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Reactionary work dominates the daily agenda

Perhaps the domain of "creatives" needs further definition, yet the results of this survey are interesting in the characterization of the nature of creative work today. (here) There are a number of good insights or, perhaps, confirmations of what we already know and experience.

Buried in the article reporting the results, however, is one of those pokes at the open office environment, again. The observation of what most workspaces are like may be accurate. But the fact that most open office spaces are not designed well is not a case against the benefits (also acknowledged here) of the forms of communication that are most effective for creative work and that are confirmed in the survey.

A well-designed open office is not a simple thing. How visual connections affect disruptive behavior, how sound masking supports attention in the midst of buzz, how a choice of alternative settings also provides places for focus, and other concepts support the interactions of productive team work yet also the solitude and focus of productive individual work should be part of the exploration that creative organizations make before making the error of believing the design of workplace is a binary, open-or-closed choice, or even that the problems of conventional open approaches are a given.

Of course, while blaming the setting, most of the disruptions people experience, most of the sources of "reactionary work," are not from the noise in the environment but the "noise" on the screen – email, instant messaging, twitter traffic, "insecurity work," etc. And the fact that these interruptions are self-generated is getting a lot of attention these days (as here and here and here).