“Once the status symbol of anti-establishment Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google and Facebook, the open office floor plan now pervades American workplaces. Supporters say open floor plans provide opportunities for collaboration, improve transparency, eliminate many emails and phone calls, and encourage employee relationships. Detractors claim that they increase distractions and decrease productivity.”
So, what should be the primary considerations when deciding on an open office floor plan? And if your place of employment already has an open floor plan that isn’t working, how can it be fixed? Here are three key concepts to keep in mind for any workplace plan:
Make room for human nature.
Humans are naturally territorial. From personal bubbles to “my spot” at the cafeteria table, people believe they own space. We all have a need for a space that feels like it’s ours, where we have control and autonomy.
- Allow every employee to have a home base, even in a flexible, collaborative office.
- Be prepared for negative reactions when you inform your employees that their home must move. Good communication and clarity can help mitigate these reactions.
Create flexibility through cultural norms and physical space.
Culture also plays a role in what are acceptable and unacceptable ways of working. Every office culture has nonverbal signals that say, “Do not disturb!” In a traditional office, it may mean shutting the door. In an open floor plan, it may mean putting on headphones.
- Consider how employees will be able to nonverbally signal, “Do not disturb.”
- Give employees a mix of workspaces and the freedom to adapt throughout the workday.
- Offer remote working and flextime options if role requirements allow for them.
Here, we get to the heart of the matter: productivity vs. collaboration.
- Start a conversation about how your organization understands collaboration in relation to productivity.
- Increase coaching conversations with highly matrixed employees to help resolve unclear expectations and confusion about priorities.
Want more insights on today’s changing workplace? Download Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report.
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