By Tania Longeau
Remember the days when a corner office was considered the workplace perk to have? Not only is this no longer the case for many professional teams, but it’s increasingly not an option at all, thanks to the growing popularity of open office plans.
Doing away with enclosed spaces and distinctly separate rooms comes alongside many perks. For instance, it can make it easier for team members to collaborate or otherwise interact on a regular basis. Open office plans also benefit the company by reducing costs related to office equipment, utilities, construction costs, and so forth.
However, keeping an open office productive, orderly, and comfortable for everyone can be a challenge. Let’s take a closer look at how you can make sure the open office idea works for you, as opposed to against you.
1. Make organization a priority.
The way open office environments encourage chatting, collaboration, and interaction is widely considered their biggest advantage. However, it can be easy for people to become distracted or disorganized when there’s always conversation going on.
Keep things productive by making organization a major priority. Implement a schedule that encourages employees to complete specific tasks by certain times or on certain days. If working as part of a team, a simple to-do list can work wonders for making sure everyone stays on track.
2. Actively embrace collaboration.
Yes, it’s important not to let the hustle and bustle of an open office keep you from staying on task. You’re missing out on a dynamic that could potentially help you if you don’t embrace collaboration at all, though.
It’s amazing what a fresh perspective can bring to the table when it comes to solving a tough client issue or troubleshooting an internal problem at the office. Encourage team members to ask questions and brainstorm with others by cultivating a collaborative office culture. Set the tone yourself by being present, available, and eager to interact, whenever possible.
3. Give people a choice as to how they work.
Naturally, an open office plan is going to work better at certain times and for certain people than others. Therefore, it’s important to give employees a choice about how they work. Invite team members to collaborate or chat with others via your office set-up, but don’t make it mandatory.
Furniture that can easily be reconfigured to suit individual people or situations makes it easy to keep everyone happy. (Examples include reconfigurable desks and cabinets.) People can feel free to enjoy the collaborative atmosphere when it works for them, but can easily obtain a little more privacy when it’s needed for productivity.
4. Provide alternative seating.
Spending your entire day sedentary isn’t just a bad idea. It can literally kill you. People that spend between 8 and 11 hours a day sitting actually increase their chances of death by up to 15% within four years. Since healthier people are also more productive people, it makes sense to include alternative seating as part of your open office plan.
Put together spaces that include higher desks (or even walking desks) so that employees can stand or stroll in place as they go about their business. Stability balls, kneeling chairs and other similar options are also good ideas. Not only do options like these help keep your employees healthier, but they help keep energy levels higher throughout the day, as well.
5. Refrain from assigned seating or work areas.
According to The Wall Street Journal, workplaces that allow their employees to select their own seating not only encourage productive collaboration, but also experience greater overall productivity. This allows everyone to try out different seating arrangements at will and learn more about how, where, and with whom they work best.
People that are more comfortable sitting by the wall can do so, those that like being in the middle of the room where the action is can do that and so forth. There’s also some evidence that encouraging employees to switch up their seating frequently can help them stay productive and inspired over the long term.
6. Keep unnecessary noise to a minimum.
The sounds of excited coworkers collaborating on projects cam be exhilarating, not to mention a big boost for your mood. However, too much extraneous noise can have the opposite effect. You can help make sure your open office is filled with only pleasant hustle and bustle by making a few smart design decisions.
- Choose sound-friendly options when purchasing office furniture, partitions, filing cabinets, and so forth, especially when putting together booths for folks that would rather work in solitude that day.
- Nix hard wood, porcelain, or ceramic flooring in favor of carpet or vinyl flooring instead. Footsteps can produce an astronomical amount of extraneous noise over the course of the day, otherwise.
- Invest in office equipment options like printers and copy machines that are designed to operate as quietly as possible. Store communal office supplies in a separate area away from the work space so that workers don’t have to disturb others while snagging a replacement ink cartridge or memo pad.
Soothing, ambient noise is also an option to consider when deciding how to run your open office for maximum efficiency.
7. Ask for (and listen to) feedback.
Every type of relationship thrives on good communication, and professional relationships are no exception. Don’t simply decide you alone know what’s best for your open office before you set it up and then forget it indefinitely. You need thorough, ongoing feedback from your employees to make truly great decisions that will foster productivity.
Do you have a subgroup of more introverted employees and want to make sure they’re as happy with the office plan as the extroverts? Curious as to whether or not that new sound system is paying off the way you thought it would?
Ask your employees, listen to what they say, and then incorporate their feedback into your vision for the office. It’s the best way to reap the many benefits of an open office design without suffering any of the potential pitfalls.
Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkjetSuperstore.com. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining Inkjetsuperstore.com, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country.