Open plan living spaces and workplaces are on-trend across the world today. ‘Open plan’ is a popular concept in home and office design, but how much does it help a person to focus and be productive?

Imagined productivity

A typical workday for many of us begins at the computer and the inbox, with the better part of the day spent responding to emails and waiting for new emails in between meetings and strategy sessions. If asked how their day was going, the standard answer from most is very likely to be “busy”. However, many would be hard-pressed to respond at the end of the day if asked what they had achieved during the workday.

The feeling of being busy can be quite addictive though one achieves nothing more than acting as a glorified (and overpaid) mail centre. Corporate managements that want their employees to do things with real value for their business must create an environment that allows them to focus. 

In his book ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport observes, “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back towards an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”

What we actually need people to do is to have time to focus on the things that matter. Collaborate intentionally and do all of this without distraction.

This is where the environment comes into play. Most offices – and since the recent lockdowns, most homes – are not set up for focussed thinking. We have open plan spaces, open kitchens, open door polices and open lives but nowhere to get away from it all and focus.

Urban rooms from Bureau

Bureau has developed urban rooms for homes and offices. Urban rooms are designed to provide the physical environment needed by people to do the work they are being paid to do properly. Urban rooms are also ideal for self-employed people as they can perform their work and achieve specified deliverables without any distraction.

Cal Newport describes ‘deep work’ as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly difficult at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable to our economy.