Coworking and Complications With Workplace Conflict

Many businesses are feeling pressure to curb costs by reducing their office footprint. In the year 2000, there was an average of 253 square feet per worker.

In 2020, that square foot count per worker is predicted to drop to only 138. This lends to the importance of utilizing available space and planning an office layout that works to increase productivity and create a positive environment for workers.

The need to decrease real estate footprint became de rigeur first during the mid 20th Century in the Quickborner Team’s Burolandschaft office concept followed by the Herman Miller’s Action Office which brought us the cube. Today, of course coworking has turned the cube into the bench with the goal for employees to spend more time working in teams and with different teams in the company than working alone at an individual desk and computer all day, everyday.

While coworking offers more privacy than an open office layout and it encourages communication within the company it is not without its faults. Workfront’s 2016 State of Enterprise Work Report shows that there has been an increase in the already dangerously high office conflict statistics. This survey was conducted between June 23 and July 1, 2016 of 606 U.S. office workers who work for companies with a minimum of 500 employees.

The study shows that in the last two years’ office conflict has grown from 81% in 2014 to 95% in 2016. Obviously, office conflicts lead to lost productivity, lost confidence in other teams/coworkers, and even missed deadlines. The Workfront study also demonstrates that the three most prevalent pet peeves within the office are loud-talking co-workers, co-workers who drop by to talk and won’t leave, and offices that are too hot or too cold (a perennial). These complaints are most prevalent in workplaces that employ some sort of open office floor plan.

Another stressor brought about by so much coworking is that workers reported that they spend only 39% performing their primary job, which begs the question: what are workers doing the rest of the time? They are attending to a plethora of meetings (motivated by such physical proximity) and are surfing through an abundance of emails.

While nearly all employees surveyed believed they were productive in their workday, when asked, 25% reported that they would feel more productive if they had uninterrupted blocks of time to work. That explains the surge of people wearing headphones, both conventional and noise-cancelling. Who said progress was easy?