(p. 1) First there were individual offices. Then cubicles and open floor plans. Now, there is a “palette of places.”
. . .
. . . the move toward pure open floor plans that packed more workers into less and less space . . . was supposed to drive collaboration, but many experts agree it often went too far, with row upon row of desks and workbench-style seating more likely to generate ennui than efficiency.
. . .
The new model is largely open, but not entirely. Under the revised thinking, breaking down walls to bring people together is good, but so are “team spaces” and standing tables, comfortable couches and movable walls.
Privacy is also good, particularly for tasks that require intense concentration, the thinking goes. That doesn’t mean a return to the glory days of private offices, but it does mean workers have more space and more places to seek solitude than in the neo-Dickensian workbench settings. The new designs often include “isolation rooms,” soundproof phone booths, and even lounges where technology is forbidden.
. . .
(p. 4) But in 2010, Microsoft started testing open designs with a quarter of a floor, and then expanded. Since 2014, it has opened 10 renovated buildings without offices, including four this year.
Microsoft, Mr. Ford said, has taken a test-and-learn approach. It learned, for example, that its early designs were too open plan, with 16 to 24 engineers in team-based spaces. Engineers found those spaces noisy and distracting, and concentration suffered. Too much openness can cause workers to “do a turtle,” researchers say, and retrench and communicate less — colleagues who retreat into their headphones all day, for example.
Today, there are more private spaces, and the team areas hold only eight to 12 engineers. “That’s the sweet spot for Microsoft,” Mr. Ford said.
The company thinks it is working. Microsoft’s Azure cloud software business has surged in the last few years, as has the company’s stock price. Mr. Ford said about 20 percent of the workplaces have been redone on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., and the surrounding area. Within five years, he said, he expects the renovated share to reach 80 percent.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 6, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)