Is your workspace productive?

Reality is most of you are going to sit at your desk after wolfing down that sandwich. You're probably sitting at your desk right now. You are, aren't you. Well men, sit for another 217 minutes and those calories will magically be gone. Ladies, 250 minutes should do the trick.

(MoneyWatch) Is your workspace shrinking?

In 1985, each employee enjoyed an average of 400 square feet to work in. By 2011, this had shrunk to 250 square feet and by 2021, it's estimated that we will be crammed into 150 square feet. This is bad news for property owners but it is especially grim for the people left working in these cramped conditions.

The problem isn't the space; It's the fact that these tiny spaces only work at all if they're your share of a larger open plan office - and those offices are noisy. According to Julian Treasure, "open plan office noise reduces the productivity of knowledge workers (people trying to manipulate words or numbers in their brains, for example to write a report or plan) by a staggering 66%."

The Institute for Interior Design says noise is the single biggest problem with open plan workspaces.

Noise, of course, is distracting. Since your brain doesn't, in fact, multi task, it switches furiously between paying attention to your work and paying attention to the mayhem around you. To a degree, you may tune out some of the background hum but you're still randomly searching for information that might be relevant. This is both cognitively and physically tiring.

What this means, of course, is that when we have important work to do, many of us just go home. That means that the creativity and interaction for which these open plan spaces were designed becomes absolutely impossible. You have to wonder why employers think that shrinking the workspace is such a great economy: What they're saving in rent they lose when we walk out the door.

  • Margaret Heffernan On Twitter»

    Margaret Heffernan has been CEO of five businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. A speaker and writer, her most recent book Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book 2011. Visit her on