It Turns Out That CIOs Want Their Privacy

It turns out that CIOs want to be left alone while at work
It turns out that CIOs want to be left alone while at work
Image Credit:
Josh Hallett

What does your office space look like right now? If your company is like roughly 70% of the firms out there, you have adopted an “open office” format where the walls and cubes have all been removed. Something else that often goes away at the same time is a private office for the person with the CIO job. This means that you get to sit with the members of your department – side by side working to try to capture the importance of information technology. Back in the day this kind of set up was all the rage, but lately CIOs have been having second thoughts.

What’s Wrong With An Open Office

Wait a minute, wasn’t it just a few years ago that this whole open office thing was a big deal? There for a while CIOs thought that it would be a good idea to be able to sit right next to the members of the IT department. However, what they have discovered is that by the end of the day, both the person in the CIO position and the members of the IT department are thinking that they both need to have their own space. It didn’t always used to be this way. Two decades ago, only 64% of offices were configured in the “open-concept” format.

The reason that CIOs were willing to give up their corner office and sit with the members of their department was because it allowed them to project a level of camaraderie with the people who work for them. However, it turns out that perhaps this was not all that good of an idea in the first place. As CIOs and their employees start to sit closer and closer to each other, both morale and productivity have started to suffer. Studies that have been made of open-concept offices have revealed that they can improve communication between different parts of the organization. However, at the same time they end up hurting both an employee’s motivation and their ability to focus on what they are working on.

The end result of all of this is that employees have started to look for ways to create privacy in an open-concept office. There are a number of different ways that they can go about doing this. One thing that they can do is called “conference room squatting” where they move into a conference room and never leave. Additionally, when an open-concept office has “focus booths” they can be taken over by employees who simply need some privacy in order to focus on what they are working on.

How CIOs Are Solving The Privacy Issue

Since you are the CIO, you have a number of different ways that you can go about getting your privacy back. One simple thing that you can do is to go ahead and lease and office for you to use. This can prevent your employees from become distracted when you are worried about something and it starts to show on your face. This will give you a change to recharge your batteries in private and then go back out and mix with your employees.

Studies of how CIOs work have revealed that we tend to perform better when we are in a territory that we know is clearly ours. One of the big problems with an open office is that if you want to have a meeting with any of the people in your department, everyone else is going to be able to see this meeting happening. No matter what you really want to talk about with them, everyone else is going to be assuming the worse – that person must be in trouble!

You may not have to actually go out and get an office. You might be able to get away with semi-enclosing a portion of the office with partitions. This approach or actually having someplace that you can go in order to be alone can be very valuable. As the CIO you are going to have to be careful to communicate to everyone else what you are doing and why you are doing it. You need to let them know that it’s really not about privilege or status. You simply need the space in order to do certain types of work.

What All Of This Means For You

The ability of a CIO to be productive has a lot to do with the work environment that they create for themselves and for the IT department. In the past few years, the open-concept floor plan has taken hold where all walls and partitions are removed between CIOs and the rest of the IT department. It turns out that this seating arrangement comes with some drawbacks.

Although the open concept seating arrangement has become very popular in the past few years, it turns out that it has some disadvantages. It can improve communication between a CIO and the rest of the IT department. However, at the same time it can cause IT workers to lose motivation and become less productive. Employees will often start to look for ways that they can create privacy for themselves. CIOs have the opportunity to lease separate office space, installing partitions, or finding other ways to create private space for themselves. This space is not designed to be a display of privilege but rather to provide the CIO with a place where productive work can be accomplished.

As a CIO we spend a great deal of time thinking about how our company can use IT to achieve its business goals. However, it turns out that the way that we organize how our IT department is laid out can be just as important as any technical decisions that we make. The open concept approach that was so popular a few years ago is falling out of favor as CIOs discover that they need private space. Make sure that you have access to the private space that you need in order to be a successful CIO.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If you create a private space for yourself in an open office, do you think that it should have a door that can be closed?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In just about any science fiction movie that you’ve seen, there always seems to be some form of artificial intelligence involved. No matter if it’s helping out the good guys in the form of R2-D2 or it’s the bad guy in the form of HAL, this has been a staple of what we see in the future for a long time. Well guess what, the future has arrived. More and more products and tools are being developed that contain artificial intelligence and this is going to change things for CIOs. Will you be ready?