70% of all offices today use an open floor plan. Yet, a recent study by Harvard Business Review found that open offices actually reduce face-to-face interaction by 70% and increase the use of email by 50% – which totally defeats the purpose, right? What’s up with that?
Here’s the problem: Everyone works differently and even the same employee will work differently from one day to the next. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for any workspace, and so flexibility is key.
It’s not as black and white anymore as choosing an open plan or private offices. There’s a pretty big grey area that’s only growing thanks to new office solutions and technology. But that’s a great thing for companies. So now the question is how do you find that perfect balance of collaboration and privacy in your workspace? Here are 5 tips to mastering the open office plan:
- Give Employees More Control
Designing your office is ALL about your employees. And according to Steelcase’s global report, the one thing that 88% of highly engaged and highly satisfied employees have is control; control of how they work, where they work, and what helps them work best.They want to feel that their emotional, cognitive and physical needs are all considered. Solutions like sit-to-stand desks help each workspace adapt to the individual user – both in terms of workstyle and wellness – while various lighting options, privacy screens, and storage help employees customize their work area and give them peace of mind.For employees who get distracted easily or maybe feel uncomfortable having their phone calls overheard by the whole office, there should be a quiet place to retreat, especially during the noisiest times of day. Other alternatives are having sound-absorbing panels or room dividers around their space. With versatile office solutions and flexible spaces, they can customize their work experience to their task or mood to be most productive.
- Make Function the Focus
Since research has shown that simply providing physical proximity and visibility doesn’t automatically translate to creative collaboration, it’s important to create spaces where it comes more naturally. That means having shared spaces with a “functional centrality,” or a focus on the shared resources in the space. For example a nice, well-stocked kitchen makes socializing and relaxing easier, where a lounge with the news or cooking channel always on TV can help spark natural conversations through common interests. Maybe for your office, this means a room designated to displaying previous projects or even competitor work to get wheels turning whenever inspiration is needed most. Bringing people together in a shared space won’t be effective unless it’s designed for a purpose.
- Think Outside the Usual Team Setup
It’s super common to group employees by department. Marketing sits together, accountants have their space, etc. But while many of these minds may think the same way, that doesn’t mean they all work the same way.While one designer may like working closely with account executives, your other creatives may prefer peace and quiet. And while Jen can close almost any sale with her gentle approach, she’s out of her element seated next to Joe, the most animated sales rep on the team. While it makes sense to group employees based on common responsibilities, you also need to consider what makes them more productive individually.
- Create Shared Spaces
Even in an open office – and sometimes especially then – it’s important to create shared spaces where noise is totally encouraged. By offering these designated areas for teamwork, it helps keep the extra chatter out of the main work area where others can get distracted.And before you think of just throwing a conference table and a few chairs into a room, consider how the environment will encourage creativity. Think lounges with sofas and ottomans, cafes with highly-connected hightops, or even bean bag chairs and mobile white boards. The more innovative the space is, the more the ideas that come out of it will be too.
- Don’t Forget Personal Space
Now that you have spaces to collaborate, make sure you have quiet places too. Whether it’s a secluded corner of the office, study pods, or an open room, these places should be designed for no interruptions, giving employees a quiet retreat when concentration is crucial to a task or mood. And if you don’t have space for a few of these spaces, you can set up a system to book these spaces out, which can be as simple as a white board check-in and out, or offer employees some alternatives to work off-site when necessary.
For more information on the tools and solutions available to help you balance collaboration and privacy in your workplace, contact our office furniture experts today.