Goldman Sachs: Open and Flexible

Offices vs Open Spaces

By Robert J. Grossman Sep 1, 2002
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HR Magazine, September 2002

Goldman Sachs: Open and Flexible

As Goldman Sachs & Co. prepares to relocate thousands of employees to new facilities in London, Tokyo and Jersey City, N.J., ideas about open offices are being tested. The challenge is to create new environments that reinforce the corporate culture and improve productivity and communication, says Tom Osmond, who has a background in HR and is assigned to the project team.

The company began with an employee survey across business units, asking workers what they liked and disliked about the current space. Senior managers around the world were interviewed, costs and designs benchmarked.

We found that about 20 percent of our population consumes more than 40 percent of the space and accounts for more than 60 percent of the costs, Osmond says. The only people who really benefited from private offices were the top 30 percent; the others were in cubicles.

Then Osmonds team ran pilot studies, setting up model offices, moving people in and assessing the impacts. The open offices received a resounding endorsement. People said that teamwork and communication went up, he says. In the London office, 80 percent of the people said the work environment was better.

As a result, when the rollout receives the final go-ahead, most private offices and cubicles will give way to moveable, low-partitioned workstations. Spaces for conferences and informal meetings, private alcoves and coffee spots will be centralized in the interior of each floor.

Flexibility, Osmond says, is key. Were aiming to provide flexibility for individuals, groups and business units. Each person will decide about the layout of his or her desk, the group will choose how their work area is configured, and the business unit will determine the overall layout.

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