Workplace, space and connectedness

5 dicembre 2013


I think the most important work that happens in organisations today is social, and apart from purely transactional work I can’t think of any example where working together doesn’t create better, smarter, faster or more innovative solutions. And frankly – if the work doesn’t require social interaction, why haven’t you already outsourced or automated it?

In a study of three Italian consulting companies Economist Arent Greve found that employee’s personal relationships (Social Capital) was the most important factor in determining productivity. Dr Matthew Lieberman from the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of California states that “The assumption that productivity is about smart people working on their own has been masking the fact that individual intelligence may only be optimised when it is enhanced through social connections to others in the group”.

Here at Optimice we believe that the work that really matters is inherently social, and that connectedness is the true differentiator. We aren’t the only ones believing this, and both Google and Yahoo have in public statements made it clear that the workplace plays a critical role in enabling connectivity. The link between workplace, space and connectedness is therefore a matter for serious consideration.

Space and connectedness

Did you know that if you sit more than 50 meters from another person you’d rarely – if ever – communicate (neither f2f or electronically)? Since many organisations co-locate business units, this means that you rarely speak with people outside your own business unit unless it is directly related to your work. In the late 1970s, MIT Professor Thomas Allen researched the physical distance between people and how often they communicate. The result is known as the ‘Allen Curve’, and shows that “the probability of a pair of people in an organization communicating with each other declines rapidly as the distance between them increases”. Allen found that there is a 50-meter barrier, and if a person who sits outside the barrier, then the communication literally is non-existent.

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