I mentioned that we are having budget meetings this week. One of the hot topics is how we’re going to manage office space and various leases as we reorganize to consolidate onto a single vendor platform. The health system’s goal is to move everyone under the IT umbrella, so we’ll need more space at the mother ship.
We’ll also have to figure out what to do with existing office space leases at our regional campuses and how to transition people from one location to another in a timely fashion. Certain functions such as desktop support and provisioning will continue to be somewhat regional, so there’s going to be some delicate negotiating while we figure out which spaces to keep and which to let go.
I hadn’t given much thought to the new space they’ll be outfitting for the project. The last time I was involved in a significant office move was seven or eight years ago and we were going into a largely completed space. The biggest thing we had to decide was which staffers would be placed into which rows of cubes.
Late last week, I had the dubious pleasure of attending a half-day session to discuss design and construction of the upcoming office build-outs. Given some of the complaints we’ve gotten about the open office design at some of our newer facilities, I thought the topic might be contentious, but I had no idea just how much.
One faction came to the meeting armed with copies of a recent article in The New Yorker called “The Open-Office Trap.” It details the perils of the open office, citing examples of reduced productivity and higher levels of employee stress. Reports have also chronicled higher use of sick days and reduced cognitive performance. One study from Cornell University found that workers exposed to typical open-office noise had higher levels of the stress hormones that are typically associated with the fight-or-flight response. Another from Finland looked at whether younger employees did better with the open office platform and concluded that although they might seem to, there are trade-offs.
As we started the meeting, another attendee hastily emailed links to the Washington Post piece on the topic. The author mentions employees who have difficulty with the transition the open office paradigm and laments the lack of huddle rooms to be used when private conversations are required.
I know that the first time I had to transition from a private office to a cube, I had a hard time adapting. As a newly-minted medical director, I was given a “supercube,” which was essentially double sized with a small table for meetings. It was on a main thoroughfare in cubeland however, which seemed to invite people to plop around the table for impromptu conversations.
I was often interrupted with requests to borrow my chairs or by people just saying hello on the way to the bathroom, icemaker, elevator, or coffee pot. It was also difficult to have confidential conversations about physician behavior, especially since we didn’t have enough smaller meeting rooms. This led me to hide out in a poorly-lighted and recently-vacated office in the basement near hospital engineering, at least until that space was reassigned. The experience definitely strengthened my support for allowing staff to work from home.
Halfway through today’s already-rowdy meeting, another colleague emailed around a piece entitled “Open-Plan Workspaces Are the Work of Satan.” The meeting quickly spiraled out of control after that since it’s hard to take Formica samples and color swatches seriously after someone has invoked the Prince of Darkness. The design and construction team had brought along an intern and I’m sure she found the meeting to be highly educational, just not in the way it was originally intended.
I’m just glad I kept a low enough profile to avoid being volunteered for the subcommittee that will meet again to “continue the dialogue.” I’ve spent the last two months fretting about the future of my team and of my own career and it didn’t even occur to me that serious choices needed to be made on whether we want an aquatic color scheme or one that is desert-inspired or how many “rolling-wall” whiteboards we might need to order. I’m glad there are people that care and are thinking about these things, but at this point it feels frivolous.
The positions for our new clinical project were posted last week. It’s hard to watch my highly-qualified staff fret over whether they’ll be chosen. They’ve heard that they have to take a personality test and that there may be a preference for younger workers without “bad habits” gleaned from working with other vendors and systems.
I’m not part of the hiring decisions at all, but I certainly hope we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by throwing away all the non-software knowledge we have amassed regarding how to effectively serve our physicians and their practices. In the mean time, I’ll have to amuse myself by running the betting pool on aquatic vs. desert color schemes.
What do you think about open offices? Email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.