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Modus Workspace create ‘a feeling of being home’ at Checkout's new office

Characterised by subtle contrast and a commitment to form and function, Checkout.com’s new workplace is built on the foundation of community, a spirit of collaboration, and a focus on supporting one another.

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Paradoxically speaking: Experience

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C.P. Hart opens premium showroom in Wilmslow, Cheshire: the new northern flagship

With beautiful room set displays and an extensive sample selection, leading luxury bathroom supplier C.P. Hart opens a new showroom in Wilmslow, Cheshire

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The courage to speak softly

This month, M Moser Associate’s Steve Gale suggests we treasure our rediscovered solitude. Has working from home made us look twice at extrovert-centric offices?

26/10/2020 3 min read

A recent survey of nearly 100,000 employees by one of our clients found that most respondents agreed with the statement, ‘I could be more productive if I was able to work more from home’, and there were many constituencies where the proportion was well over 90%.

The obvious advantages of home working cited in surveys relate to less commuting and increased wellbeing from the freedom to choose how and when to work, but I wonder if there is a more subtle benefit that has not found expression?

The other studies I have reviewed record similar enthusiasm for home working, and the last six months have forced organisations to take a view. Some have embraced policies at either end of the office/home spectrum, but most seem to be settling somewhere in the middle, for a mix of both office and home working.

Home working might be revealing the hidden introvert in us, which is so difficult to respect in our open plan offices. At home we can often banish undesirable stimulation, and make a quiet space, for a useful amount of time. Greater productivity can come from fewer interruptions and more opportunities to concentrate.

I don’t think we will discover that there are more introverts in the world than we previously thought, but there is plenty of evidence that more reflective behaviour might be good for business, as well as the employee.

If we have rediscovered the positive aspects of solo working, then it is a good reason to encourage working at home where it can be accommodated, but what about the office?

How much should a central workplace be converted into a facility for unfettered socialising and collaboration?

The home working experiment has handed people the ability to close doors and turn the volume down and find their own conditions for focus. It has also forced us to revisit the dogma that being under the same roof is good for knowledge exchange and innovation.

The surveys show that there are still plenty of people who can’t or don’t want to work at home, not to mention those that might feel differently as the novelty wears off. They might crave the same peace and quiet but find it difficult if their workplace is transformed into a private members’ club where interaction is prioritised, and solitude becomes impossible.

The home working experiment has handed people the ability to close doors and turn the volume down and find their own conditions for focus. It has also forced us to revisit the dogma that being under the same roof is good for knowledge exchange and innovation. There is little doubt that face-to-face contact is good, but long-term proximity might be self-defeating.

Does constructive interaction devolve into idle chatter after a time? Back in 2017, a wide study by Reidl and Williams (Northeastern and Mellon Universities) showed that short bursts of interaction produced measurably more productive results than ‘constant, less focused communication’.

As The Economist recently recorded, ‘not much evidence exists that serendipity is useful for innovation, even though it is accepted by many as a self-evident truth’. These are fighting words for some of us, but definitely a hypothesis worth testing.

If we have rediscovered the simple power of solitude, let’s give it the space it needs and reassess the doctrine that Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, calls ‘the madness for constant group work’.

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