Picture of Stephan van Rooden

Stephan van Rooden

Rethink offices: Less distractions, more collaboration


While writing this post you are probably working from home. Or many of your colleagues are. I hear from many people that working from home makes them (feel) more productive. They have more focus and less distractions compared to being at the office. Now more organisations are slowly opening their doors. Maybe it’s time to rethink the use of our offices and maybe save some money along the way.

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Distractions in offices

Before COVID-19 put everything to a standstill, offices were the place people would spend most of their day. And all of them struggle with the same challenge of not being distracted by others to actually get some work done. It doesn’t matter if you work in cubicles (hello 80’s) or in these large open offices where the number of desks available is less than the amount of employees. There is always distraction, birthday celebrations, Town hall meetings, coffee machine gossip. You can spend the entire day talking to others and not do the work that’s needs to be done. This is especially challenging if you are a person who thrives on social interactions. Most of us will probably have to spend a portion of your evening to get our work done.

No meeting rooms available

A totally different type of distraction is meetings. Somehow, managers and specialists tend to spend most of their day at the office in meeting rooms. If they are available. Since we need to fit a maximum amount of desks into the office. Also need some meeting rooms, organisations end up with a little bit of both but never enough. You probably have seen them. Groups of people 5 minutes past the hour waiting outside the meeting room arguing with the group inside the room. Both claim they booked the room. The horror and the amount of money lost!

When working from home, meeting get even worse since they tend to drain our energy dus to a lack of eye contact (you cannot look someone in the eye while videoconferencing). So now that we are slowly moving back to the office. Now might be a good idea to rethink our office spaces and see if we can be less distracted and are able to collaborate more.

What do consultancy firms do?

Good thing is, we can learn from the practices many consultancy firm have. They have their consultans over at customers mostly four days a week. On the fifth day they would get back to their own office. To share knowledge, develop new services, meet and collaborate.

I have worked for two consultancy firm that had quite a different office then the average organisation. The offices were designed to facilitate collaboration and work is done elsewhere. These offices had numerous meeting rooms and large multifunctional rooms. These could easily be converted from hosting events, trainingscourses or large companywide meetings. This worked great and I believe this might work for every knowledge intensive organisation. To do your work, you can work from home or where ever you can be most productive. To collaborate, you can go to the office. Your organisation might probably need less office space and being at the office is a socially engaging event.


These consulting firms did not only have different offices focused on collaboration. They both put a lot of emphasis on creating a strong company culture! From the onboarding of new employees the focus was on embedding this strong culture, sharing stories about the company history, their vision etc. Both organisations had specific rituals and roles. They weren’t dancing and singing in circles, but habits and specific meetings that evolved over time and was embedded in the organisational culture.

Second, they both had a great amount of transparency on the state of the organisation. This way the employees could frequently inspect and adapt to the effects of their actions and behaviour as an organisation.

Rethink offices

If your employees or colleagues feel more productive, now that most of the work is done from home. And you have a severe lack of meeting rooms in your office. Now might be the time to rethink the design and use of your office space.

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