How to Design the Ideal Office
Open layouts aren't always bad
If you plan to build or design a new office, Brian Chen and Ethan Bernstein would be good people to know.
Chen is an entrepreneur whose struggles with open offices led him to co-found ROOM, a startup that makes prefabricated soundproof booths that give employees a private place to work and take calls. Bernstein is a Harvard Business School professor who co-authored a now-famous study that found that open offices lead to a 73 percent drop in face-to-face interaction. Inc. recently brought the two together to discuss how companies can build better workplaces while avoiding some of the common pitfalls of office design. The following is an edited excerpt from their conversation.
On the right--and wrong--way to design an office:
Bernstein: We've lived with an assumption for a long time that if we build something a certain way, people will interact a certain way within that space. But human beings don't respond to spaces, they interpret them and then use them for their own purposes. So if you don't give them the chance to define those spaces themselves, you're actually just pissing people off rather than getting what you want out of your workspace.
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