How you can make open plan office designs work

Many in management think open plan offices are a great idea but workers often disagree. Open plan offices don’t work for everyone and they can cause problems. With the right design in place though, they can be a success.

Staff who work in open plan offices have 70% less interaction with their colleagues, says a recent Harvard study. This would appear to be the opposite of what is intended. Teams are therefore less collaborative, choosing to email one another instead of having face-to-face communication.

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Where does the concept originate from?

Originally, designers and architects aimed to create greater collaboration in a more spacious environment, where walls had literally been broken down. It was an idea to inspire interaction, conversation and to remove the delineation and hierarchy that exists in so many workplaces. Managers would shut themselves away and were deemed unapproachable.

As the concept evolved however, open plan designs became a cost-cutting exercise and a way to conserve important space. The positivity behind the early concept was replaced by rows of desks stretching out and a complete lack of privacy or peace.

However, with clever designing, open plan spaces can work for everyone. For an Office Fit out Company that can help you with this, contact mobius at work

The key is to make the space as flexible as possible to suit a wide range of needs. Here are some ideas:

Separate spaces for tasks

To help people minimise distractions and background noise, separate areas can be created for those tasks that require group work and collaboration. This allows those who need to concentrate at their desks, the opportunity to do so in peace while those who need to chat and exchange ideas can feel free to do so in a designated area, meeting room or break room, for example.

Allow the use of empty meeting rooms

Should an employee ask for a couple of hours of quiet to finish a project or complete a task, this should be freely available, and the use of empty rooms should be an acceptable thing to ask for in your office culture. This identifies that everyone has different working styles and that there is a suitable space available for all. This will improve productivity when everyone can work in an environment that meets their needs.

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Have some firm rules

Having a guideline for noise could be helpful. It could be that a signal for not being disturbed is if an employee puts headphones on, for example. It is important for staff to understand when it acceptable to disturb a colleague and when it isn’t and also for the office to have some rules over what constitutes a reasonable noise level.

Open plan benefits

When guidelines are drawn up and correctly implemented, open plan offices do have many benefits. They encourage the sharing of ideas, help to foster employee relationships and can be effective in keeping up office morale. Taken back to its original concept, it can become a flexible space where everyone is equally placed to share ideas.

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