Why Open-offices don’t work

Source: The Open-Office Trap – The New Yorker – StumbleUpon

So this article discusses how science shows that open-offices cause problems. This is interesting since this information has been known for some time, yet many businesses still use an open-office configuration.

I have seen companies that have totally open offices and no private spaces whatsoever. Very few honest conversations happen, which are key to prevent misunderstandings. Almost everyday when people communicate they also miscommunicate. When you can honestly and privately address these, everyone benefits. However in an open office you can’t talk honestly among many other things.

It is kind of crazy that managers in open-office plans have private offices while the rank and file don’t. If managers need to have private space that is quiet to focus, why wouldn’t everyone need it? I have seen that in those companies those who don’t have private offices resent those who do. That doesn’t help office politics or cooperation.

Perhaps this will change when companies can better quantify sick days, and miscommunication caused by the open office plan. Until then, this is one of those mistakes that businesses do and workers have to live with.

Office 365’s Skype for Business vs PBX

Microsoft has introduced a feature in Office 365 that could allow you to replace your landline for good. Does it deliver as promised?

Source: Can Office 365’s Skype for Business replace your PBX system? | Network World

This works for the most part, but has two surprising limitations. You have to have Outlook 365 exchange email for VoiceMails, or calls will ring until you pick them up. Kind of irritating. Obviously this service is going to improve, but if I were a small business it would be a serious contender.

My experience with PBX systems is that they are complex, costly and required knowledgeable support. That is difficult for many small businesses to find. Many companies end up paying a consultant or outsourced company to manage their phone system as part of the overall technology. Sometimes a dedicated employee learns it, but rarely is it easily done for most companies. In some companies HR handles the phones. Interesting since it often requires a technician to diagnose phone problems.

If it were me I would have a company where everyone has an iPhone. The training would be nill, and since most plans include free domestic calling, it would really avoid the cost of maintaining a backbone of a phone system. The contact names would show through Exchange, and it would make it super easy for the end users to make group calls and so on. Since most business phones cost $500 or more, a low-end iPhone would cost that. If the iPhone were broke/lost, then it would be more expensive, but still cheaper than the networking equipment and expertise dedicated to a dedicated phone system.

The problem is that the end users of business phones rarely use them effectively. Most people in any phone system drop transferred calls, can’t properly do conferences, and need constant hand holding due to the many features of their office phone. Most people learn the most basic they need to do their jobs, and no more. So in that sense a standard office phone is a cognitive burden.