The once hip notion of an open-concept office, is soured by low productivity and annoying desk neighbors. So, what can companies do to solve the failure of the open concept office?
You may associate the cool tech offices of Silicon Valley with popularizing the open-concept office, but open offices actually pre-date cubicle farms by quite a few years. Architects and designers in the 30s and 40s thought breaking down the office walls, meant breaking down the walls of society and bringing people together. Creative fields similar to architecture and design sometimes benefit from open space offices, allowing for room to move, think, and collaborate. However, that may not be the case anymore, and our open office will likely never look as cool as the Frank Lloyd Wright designed, Johnson Wax Headquarters. *swoon*
So, what can companies do to appease the masses in a world that is split on open-concept? Though there may not be a perfect recipe to put out 100% employee satisfaction plus productivity, there have been a lot of hybrid versions of office spaces that have a little something for everyone.
To combat noise issues or complaints, people tend to plug in their headphones and tune out, but that doesn’t make for much collaboration or company culture. Having at least one area designated for meetings, whether enclosed or not, can also ensure no one is disturbed that wants to focus on their work. Installing a few partitions or cubicles can give employees who need that quiet time, the space to do so.
“We love helping offices find a perfect balance of open concept and cubicle farm. The use of glass walls, screened partitions, and refurbished cubicle spaces is a way to meet privacy needs, while keeping up with the ever-changing office trends.” says Ryan Houser of Minnesota Office Furniture
Some more outlandish ideas to combat open-concept office stuffiness include free address and hoteling. A free address office gives employees the flexibility to have a desk if they like, but be very mobile throughout the day. Having communal tables, sitting areas, chairs, or even the awesome work pods like Google, allows for employees to collaborate with new people, get up and stretch, and move to a new environment to help keep the creative juices flowing. Hoteling is a little different, in that you don’t have a “home-away-from-home” type desk or office, you literally change workspaces everyday.
Some companies have a signup system to alert people about what is or isn’t open that day. It may not work for everyone, but this concept could be valuable and allow employees to be flexible while keeping things from getting stagnant in an office environment.
Lastly, everyone’s favorite, the sit-stand desk. Now, instead of sitting all day with loud desk neighbors, you can alternate between sitting and standing with your loud desk neighbors. Only kidding! Sit-stand desks have been shown to increase employee satisfaction and productivity. It increases and improves blood flow, which in turn can keep you from grabbing another cup of coffee, and maintain focus throughout the day in a natural way.
The idea of open-concept may be dying off, but improvements to office productivity and satisfaction are ever-changing. If you have an open-concept office, give your employees the tools they need, and the options to be their most productive selves.