As a business leader, you’re always looking for ways to bolster employee collaboration and boost office productivity through office design. In your efforts to target these goals, you may have spent thousands or even millions remaking your cubicle office design for what you thought would promote a productive office environment: an open office plan.
Every other successful business leader was doing, which signaled this might be the right move. Plus, your entire team seemed to love it. At least, in the first few months. You’d just found the magic pill that was going to nurture a collaborative spirit, spur innovation, and make everyone on your team happy. But perhaps that doesn’t seem to be the case as you’re seeing opposite results.
Studies Reveal the Drawbacks of Open Plan Office Environments.
Even though the open office design has become a trend that start-ups and companies are quickly jumping on to boost productivity, studies have shown it isn’t as efficient as business leaders thought. And here’s why:
- A recent study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that adopting an open office design resulted in a 70 percent drop in face-to-face interactions as employees socially withdrew from each other. They resorted to electronic interactions, which increased by 50 percent. This resulted in less productive collaboration.
- In another survey by HR research firm Future Workplace and global communication firm Poly, 99 percent of employees reported that audio and visual distractions from colleagues are the leading problems they face in open office environments. They argued that the sensory overload they experience in their work environment affects their ability to stay focused, lowering their productivity.
- A 2018 survey found that 31 percent of workers in open workspaces would prefer not giving honest feedback or sharing their true thoughts while having a conversation on phone because they feel coworkers will judge them if they hear. Decreased privacy is a challenge they felt affected their job satisfaction and morale.
From these studies, it’s evident that transitioning to the newly desired open office doesn’t necessarily guarantee better collaboration or improved productivity. What’s even more interesting about these findings is that they are not what business managers had intended to achieve. Remember, you’re dealing with people who are inherently territorial but still social beings. As such, you must provide them with an office work environment that best supports and accommodates their needs. If done right, this office style can offer many benefits including:
- Reduced construction and office setup costs. It will cost you more money to construct cubicle offices than creating an open office space.
- Better collaboration. You’ve probably heard them say, “ideas happen in the corridors, not in the boardroom.” They are right. An open office environment encourages employees to actively share ideas and work more fluidly together.
- Improved employee health. According to a 2018 study, employees working in an open office environment were found to move around more often and, therefore, 20 percent more physically active than those in a cubicle office design. Additionally, open workspaces have been found to let in more natural light which boosts employee morale and reduces levels of sickness.
- Greater flexibility with the office space. With an open-plan office, you can easily reconfigure the layout to suit the current needs of your business. Employees can also adapt the space however they need while working.
- Improved company culture. If you’ve ever worked in the traditional cubicle office setup, you know how unlikely it is for employees from different sections to interact and converse with each other. An open office layout enhances human interactions, making it easier to develop a great company culture that ensures your team’s fulfillment and overall happiness.
How Can You Modify and Improve Your Open-Plan Office for Productivity?
Create More Private Rooms or Booths for Phone Calls
Picture this: you’re busy at work then the phone rings. It’s your partner calling. There was a very important communication he/she was supposed to make. What next? Your coworkers are all over the open office space. You’ll certainly feel uneasy and find it hard to openly talk to him/her because of the office environment.
Here’s the thing— everyone, regardless of their position at your workplace, needs some level of autonomy. Failure to provide them with the much-needed ‘personal space’ can affect their job satisfaction and productivity. By adding phone booths or private rooms that your employees can use for their communications, you help improve their overall happiness, thereby boosting productivity.
Consider Adding Homey Furniture
You’ve probably walked into an office space that didn’t feel like a traditional office. You even thought you were in a friend’s living room. Well, businesses are increasingly following this trend where they infuse their open office plan with a sense of hominess to create a more relaxing and motivating environment that can boost their employees’ happiness. You can achieve this homey feel by creatively installing modern lighting and including furnishings such as plush couches, tall bar stools, pool tables, board games, and more.
Rethink the Kitchen, a key part of the workplace
Think about the last time you tried to work on an empty stomach. Whether that was at home or at your former employer’s office, chances are you didn’t like it. And you just couldn’t stay focused on the task at hand.
The truth is that no employee enjoys performing their duties on an empty stomach. Therefore, it’s important that you provide your team with a fully stocked workplace kitchen where they can refuel and build strong friendships. Workplace kitchens have been found to boost employee happiness and office productivity. Here’s what to consider when designing your workplace kitchen:
- Kitchen layout. Choose a central location that will allow all your employees to interact and collaborate. An open layout is preferable.
- Kitchen hygiene. No one would enjoy spending time in an untidy and dirty environment. So, make sure there’s a dishwasher, garbage bins, and enough water for cleaning. Also, provide a working dishwasher.
- Kitchen lighting. Work with a designer to help you create a bright and expansive space that’s inviting. Consider installing large windows to allow as much natural light as possible. Avoid using harsh artificial lighting. This will help boost employee morale.
- Kitchen furniture. Provide moveable tables and chairs so it’s easy for employees to move them around whenever they want to collaborate. Provide couches to encourage relaxation.
Create Gathering Spaces and Quiet Rooms
Everyone needs time to recharge or simply withdraw from everything that’s going on and concentrate on a strategy plan. If you’re not careful in your layout design, you could end up with an office space that hinders this very important aspect of work. You can either incorporate these thinking spaces in your office layout or create separate quiet rooms that employees can get away from all the distractions and concentrate. One way to achieve this is by positioning furniture and moveable walls in a way that provides a sense of privacy. Make sure workers can’t see each other when in these spaces/rooms.
Allow Natural Light
According to a recent survey by Human Resources advisory firm Future Workplace, workplaces with limited or no natural light resulted in job dissatisfaction among employees. The absence of outdoor views was also found to affect employee wellbeing as well. Optimizing natural light in your open plan workspace will not only improve your workers’ health and wellness but also boost their productivity.