Organization and leadership

Smokescreen and tensions at the open office

As my posts on the open office suggests, there is gap that exists around a communicative perspective on the office environment, although communication often stands as the main argument for this type of organization. Can the argument about open offices based on improved communication actually be a smokescreen to lower rent and maintenance expenses, simply because it’s a more accepted argument socially? At a time when companies are criticized for being greedy, it might be an easy conclusion. But with also increasing demands on organizations from external and internal stakeholders, it turns out to be a simplistic picture. For an organization to be able to continue to exist, it must have legitimacy, and thus a good economic calculation is not enough.

There is a paradox in that research generally has a negative approach to the open office landscape, while more and more organizations have exactly that type of office plan, however it can be explained by the quest for legitimacy and the isomorphism arising thereof. A problem with the isomorphism around the open offices may be that all activities are not suitable for that landscape, such as confidential work due to market competitive advantage, or a job that requires more social privacy.

There are tensions between the concepts of flexibility and control, transparency and private, uniformity and polyphony. The open office landscape’s implications on communication has proved complex as it is closely linked with other variables, such as perspectives on communication among management, and power and control aspects. The open environment can act as idea developing, but also discourage knowledge sharing.


Olly Gibbs

Olly Gibbs

Different organizations require different working environment. Individuals also have different needs in their work in order to be productive, healthy and motivated, and it will be a constant, but necessary challenge for the governing bodies to deal with the different needs. For organizations consequently being able to create an environment that promotes valuable communication, communication researchers should study the offices that currently exist. I suggest studies of communication, over time, in open as well as digitalized offices, where we look at both the perceived factors and performative results. It should be a research that benefit the organization as a whole, but also the individual who partly constitutes it.



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