This week we discuss the modern workplace.

Like a lot of digitally-led creative agencies we’ve always favoured an open-plan office, the supposedly modern workplace. But, having read some interesting articles written by developers and creatives, both of whom make up a chunk of our workforce, I decided to dig a bit deeper.

Why is open plan considered the modern workplace?

I’d always been of the opinion that for a business that thrives on collaboration that open plan is the only way to go, but when I think about it where does collaboration start and interruption stop? For a number of our team sometimes they need to get their head down and get on with things. Sure they can move around and work where they like in the space but very often this means alone, headphones on.

The open plan office also seems to have a huge impact on sickness, something that affects all businesses. Sadly, based on my findings this impact is huge. An Australian survey I found in a Telegraph article cited open plan offices and a lack of personal space as having “shocking” effects on mental and physical health. UH OH.

The sceptic in me then started to wonder that if real illness is on the rise what about the imaginary side, I found a great survey by Free office finder looking at the flip side. Who’s not telling the truth? Sadly, both real and made up sickness follow similar patterns more real sickness lowers the barriers to pulling a made up sickie. As a business owner I have encountered these issues in the past, it builds resentment within the team and doesn’t lead to a nice atmosphere in general.

So what’s the answer

One of the biggest drivers to open-plan was the economics, individual office space for lots of staff is expensive. We live in expensive times especially in London. Open plan is a nice way to sell team spirit, a modern workplace environment but importantly keep the bills down. It seems the solution lies in variety, led by the new tech behemoths workers want freedom, want to be able to work where and when they want.

This is all great but for a smaller business it’s not really feasible to purpose build a campus somewhere, maybe next year. We’ve found the solution in a flexible multi-use building in Camden. We have an office but there are co-working and break out spaces that we can use as we like.

The sick issue is still one that I struggle with though, I want to give employees freedom, they are measured based on outputs but I know deep down that not everyone is honest 100% of the time. It’s not a slight on my staff it’s human nature. Besides we foster an honest culture so hopefully the DVO team won’t take offence at this article. We try our best to create a culture that doesn’t lead to the reasons often cited for taking made up sick days but I’m sure it does happen. Although the reality is for us outputs are the focus so in a perfect scenario take as many as you like as long as the work is on time and to standard, (really hoping no one in the company reads this now!).

We’ve favoured flexible working as a reward based incentive, if it works out we continue, if it doesn’t then we look for alternatives, it’s not perfect but it works for us. Which I guess is what it boils down to, asking staff how they want to work and accommodating where it works. I measure this by also being honest, as I know not everyone is going to be 100% happy 100% of the time.

If you’d like to talk to us about marketing or have a look at our open plan office, hopefully you won’t get sick, then give us a call 0203 771 2461 or contact us here.

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