There has been a lot of discussion on why open offices fail, namely due to lack of privacy, and stress and low-productivity that comes from not having your own space. These outcomes are more a result of poorly designed open floor plan workspaces, or cookie-cutter open spaces that were designed without the needs of the company in mind.
Despite some of the negative press that open office layouts have received, businesses are still moving away from the boundaries of traditional offices and looking for something a bit more expansive and less isolating. There’s a far greater appeal of bright, open areas than the closed off and fragmented offices of the past.
So, how do you know if an open floor plan will work in your office, and how do you do open office spaces the right way? Here are our thoughts:
Choose a design-build firm that asks the right questions (and listens!)
In order to design an open workspace that will work for you, there has to be some real evidence-based planning. Your design-build team should be asking a series of questions that reveal the business objectives of your organization. Which departments interact the most? What is work flow like? What kind of workload do your employees have and what tools do they use to get the job done?
With an understanding of how your business runs on a day-to-day basis, an appropriate design can be drafted. Workspaces should be designed to support work processes – it’s not all about saving space or lowering costs!
Find a happy-medium in your open office layout
An open floor plan office doesn’t have to mean that everyone is exposed to everything that is happening around them at every angle. Open floor plan shouldn’t mean one room with everyone working in close-quarters and cramped conditions – those rarely receive positive feedback.
A well planned open office layout will offer a spacious and connected environment without feeling like canned sardines. Some tasks don’t benefit from overhearing other conversations and can be outright distracting, so there should be appropriate workstations for tasks that require concentration.
There are lots of possibilities, such as more open partitions, glass walls, nooks, or workstations that are positioned in a way where they aren’t on top of each other. Low bookshelves, cabinets, or shared office equipment tables can also be used as dividers in large rooms.
Think about how your office functions
How often are your employees at their desks during the day? Are assigned areas being used, or have you noticed people dispersing to other areas to work? Your office should be designed to support the current environment.
For example, if your company is one that has switched to mostly wireless tech with few desktop computers, then a range of unassigned or collective use workspaces might be better than strictly assigned seating. Another example would be considering which roles or departments require more interaction with eachother, and which ones do best working solo.
Consider the needs of your most valuable asset (your employees)
One mistake companies make when choosing an open office space is to reduce their rent costs without considering the needs of employees. If you compare the cost of your rent to that of the cost of maintaining your staff, it will be very clear which of the two is your biggest asset. Keeping employees happy and productive is one of your biggest investments – not where you want to cut corners or save money.
Design your office around your culture
Your company culture will tell a lot about how receptive your employees are to open floor plans, and what kind of layout. If your employees tend to seek out a lot of interaction with each other, or rely on daily communication to get their tasks done, then they’ll adapt much easier to working in closer proximity.
Remember that an open office isn’t a single solution for every kind of workspace. Employee workload, values, personality, and work style vary immensely between organizations, and should be taken into consideration when designing an open office layout.
The bottom line is that open floor plans aren’t going anywhere, but people are still figuring out how to use them to their advantage. So the next time you stumble upon an article criticising open office floor plans, remember that there are solutions to the majority of the issues people have with them.