A Survival Guide
Office furniture dealerships work with companies large and small to reshape their work environments. Here are some observations to keep in mind once the walls have come down.
Variety is key
Don’t just scrap the panels: Effective open-plan work areas need to offer a range of spaces. A “layered” approach may work best. Provide spaces for those people who really need quiet to focus, whether they just find it easier to work in quiet or they are more introverted. Successful spaces work when everyone in the company, regardless of personality or role, feels comfortable and confident in accomplishing their work.
Plan for the entire space, not just the corners
Create “enclaves” for collaborative working while making sure those spaces do not disrupt people sitting nearby. While it is important to provide areas for private/personal time, do not place them so far away that the trek to reach them is not worth it. Create “adjacencies,” spaces offering a phone booth or enclave where you are not walking more than 20 feet to reach them.
Design to meet your company goals
Your company needs to ask: What are our goals? “More collaboration” is a start, but “more collaboration between the product team and the sales team” is a goal that you can design your office around. Companies today often say they want to be more like Google. What is it about the workspaces at Google that you find appealing, and is that something your office’s culture can embrace? It may be more important to uncover how the company identity is expressed through physical space.
It’s not enough to create spaces; you have to enforce boundaries. Open spaces create noise. There’s just no getting around it. Rules may be needed about how areas can be used. Certain spots for working in require a “no phone call” rule. No exceptions! It sounds very corporate and Big Brother to some people, but when you are working in an open space, protocols can be very important.
Get bosses out of offices
Sometimes managers may still need to function behind closed doors, but letting higher-ups spend their days inside old-fashioned private offices while employees work in the open sends a bad message. It also isolates them from the very benefits open plans promise. Once exposed to this new approach to the workplace, many executives say, “Wow, I’ve learned more about my own company in two weeks than I did in the past two years.”
While open-plan offices do not fit every company’s culture, they have come a long way from the “cubicle farms” of the past. More importantly, they are delivering an increasingly comfortable way to work.
This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.