In the early 2000´s companies like Google began testing and rolling out open plan office space for staff members and teams.
The idea was to give a much more open ideation and creativity to work together, allowing for increased personal interactions throughout the regular working day. This was believed to enable more collaborative thinking and opportunity to “bounce ideas” off of one another, leading to a greater shared knowledge, expertise and of course - more INNOVATION!
Some decades later, after countless studies and research findings - the question arises - “are open office spaces still useful and do they work?”.
Let’s take a look at some aspects that may lead to productive and collaborative open office plan.
The floor plan
Careful and considered planning of the layout of such an office space is essential. In many cases “high traffic” areas were created too close to desks and other working areas. Individual workstations should be located in quieter and less “public” spaces, limiting distraction and interruption.
No assigned areas for collaboration
Following on from the floor plan being essential, assigned areas that are built and even designed for networking and brainstorming are something that can help limit the distraction and interruption, yet still allows for interaction and opportunity to share ideas or share a lovely cup of coffee or tea. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear of co-working spaces that do not allow workers to take coffee or tea out of the kitchen area to consume. This is to promote the kitchen as a networking area - if you think about it, the kitchen is usually a noisy and bustling place anyway, so it tends to make sense in that regard.
General good manners and respect of others
It is still rather common knowledge, but from time to time, we do become rather forgetful in the office, racing around from one task to another, and in between meetings and conversations… but understanding and respect is a critical aspect.
It is all too easy to forget that a colleague may need privacy, quiet or space in order to operate and complete their tasks in the office. This is a two way street however, if you are commonly seen at your workspace on facebook or other social media, watching youtube, eating lunch and so on, this can give the impression that the desk space is not necessarily just for work - but a social space.
Think how you would like your desk and immediate office space to be seen by your colleagues. In most cases, heading to the kitchen or other common areas helps to show others that you prefer to network and discuss only in these “assigned” spaces. Taking control or let’s say “responsibility” of your workspace is important.
Keep it tidy, feel free to bring in a plant, pictures of family or loved ones and perhaps keep a small whiteboard or other items where you can keep post-it notes, reminders, calendars or allow others to leave those items for you.
The term - “you get out what you put in” comes to mind. If your office is open plan or is about to undergo the change to become one, the collective mindset of the staff will ultimately determine how successful it will be. Don’t be the negativity monger and spread that throughout the office.
Use your creativity, intuition, skills, and positivity to see how you can benefit the most from an open office environment. Experiment by using certain times or days where you interact or make yourself available to others in the office. For example, many enjoy the Monday morning “weekend roundup” with a coffee in hand, or in some offices, Friday afternoon glass of champagne!
Most if not all quality employees have a solid if not good relationship with colleagues and are able to find common ground and help integrate different skill sets and ideas. The office space should provide constant learning possibilities - it just comes down to the individual and how much they wish to contribute and embrace it.
So get out there and experiment, have fun and fully explore how to gain the most out of your open office space!