BBC 6 minute English-Modern offices

BBC 6 minute English-Modern offices

BBC 6 minute English-Modern offices


Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word for word transcript

Rob: Hello, I’m Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’ve got Finn with me today. Hello Finn

Finn: Hi Rob, how’s it going

Rob: All right. You might notice it’s a bit noisier than usual – that’s because we’re in our open-plan office

Finn: Yes, it’s a big room full of desks with no walls between them and, as I look around, I can see maybe about 50 colleagues working very hard at their computers

Rob: And today we’re talking about open-plan offices – and learning some language related to office life

Finn: That’s right. Rob, shall we just go back into the studio where it’s a bit quieter

Rob: Good idea. Let’s go. (in the studio) Right, come in here

Finn: That’s better. That’s good, isn’t it

Rob: Lovely

Finn: Rob – a question? You know a lot about sound, don’t you

Rob: Well, a bit

Finn: What do we call a kind of noise that contains the full range of sounds that humans can hear? Is it

a) white noise

b) green noise

c) pink noise

Rob: Good question. I’m only familiar with the term ‘white noise’, so I’ll go for a) white noise

Finn: Well, we’ll see if you’re right at the end of the programme. So shall we continue talking about offices

Rob: Yes, millions of people like us work in open-plan offices these days, but they’re not new. Do you remember Henry Ford, the American industrialist from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century

Finn: Yes, he owned factories and he made the famous Ford cars

Rob: He’s also one of the main names in the story of open-plan offices

Finn: Yes, Henry Ford was really concerned with efficiency, wasn’t he

Rob: Yes. Efficiency is one of main reasons for open-plan offices – they increase communication and collaboration among staff

Finn: Now, a company’s staff – its employees – work together for the same goals – they collaborate, exchanging information and ideas. This can be nice, but there can be too many of us in a small space

Rob: Franklin Becker, social psychologist at Cornell University in the US, thinks the reason open-plan offices have become acceptable and popular, or as he says – the reason they have taken root – is different. What reason does he give

Franklin Becker, social psychologist at Cornell University, US

The fundamental reason why open plan has taken root has nothing to do really with communication or collaboration or even flexibility. It has to do with the fact that you can reduce the amount of space per person in an open-plan versus any kind of a closed cellular office

Finn: Well, it’s all about saving space and money. He says it takes less space per person in an open-plan office than it does in a cellular office – that’s an office which is made up of lots of small, closed rooms

Rob: In those offices, the space for each individual – per person – is limited. Which is why open-plan offices have taken root

Finn: So some very good reasons for open-plan offices. But what about the noise

Rob: The noise! Yes! Although open-plan offices can save a company money, they have hidden costs. Sound expert Julian Treasure explains what they are. He uses a very important word for business. Which word is it

Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency

Nobody can understand two people talking at the same time. We have bandwidth for about 1.6 people talking. Now that’s key when we are talking about open-plan offices because if I’m trying to do work it requires me to listen to a voice in my head to organise symbols, to organise a flow of words and put them on paper, for example. And if you’re talking at the same time, then you’re taking up one of my 1.6. I’m left with 0.6 in my head. That doesn’t work very well – it reduces my productivity dramatically

Finn: The word, right at the end there, was productivity. Workers in open-plan offices get distracted when others speak, and their ability to produce work – their productivity – is reduced

Rob: The expert says we can concentrate on 1.6 voices saying different things at the same time. That’s not even two people

Finn: No, not really. He says one voice is in your own head, to organise the flow, the movement, of words and ideas when you think and write

Rob: And the other is… well, people like you on the phone all the time

Finn: Oh, come on Rob. I suppose I do speak on the phone quite a lot but I didn’t know I was disturbing your work

Rob: You are

Finn: Oh, sorry. Shall we go back to the question I asked earlier

Rob: Okay

Finn: I asked you about the colour of noise that contains the full range of sounds that humans can hear. Was it white, green or pink noise

Rob: Yes. And I went for white noise

Finn: The answer is, in fact, pink noise. That’s the name scientists give noise

Rob: Interesting colour

Finn: … the full range of audio frequencies or sounds that humans can hear

Rob: Okay. Well, it’s almost time to go but could you remind us of some of the English words we heard today

Finn: Of course. We heard

open-plan office industrialist collaboration staff to take root per person flow productivity

Rob: Thanks Finn. Well that’s it for this programme. Please join us soon again for 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English

Both: Bye

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