Tired of Your Cubicle? Here's What You Need for an Open Plan Office
Tired of Your Cubicle? Here's What You Need for an Open Plan Office
October 13, 2019
If the idea of an office cubicle makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Ever since startup culture normalized the open plan office, companies across all industries have been embracing collaborative work environments for their small businesses.
The Benefits of Open Plan Offices
You can expect teamwork to rise in an open floor plan office, as associates work together rather than hiding behind technology. Consider that face-to-face conversations have been shown to be an astounding 34 times more successful than email, according to a study in Harvard Business Review.
Not only is an open floor plan office more conducive to teamwork and common goals, but a study conducted at Stanford University found that groups are more productive if they have cues that indicate they are working together—even if they actually aren’t at the time. That can make an open floor plan office an incredible tool to supercharge any small business since often your team members are working alone, when others are in meetings or working on other tasks.
Flexibility is also a huge benefit of an office cubicle environment, especially if the size of your team is constantly in flux. By utilizing different furniture layouts, you can accommodate additional team members as needed, or spread out if you have fewer people onsite.
An open plan office with modern office furniture can also be more cost-effective, especially if your team members are often working remotely or on site with clients. If this is the case, they probably don't need a dedicated office space.
Open floor plan offices can even offer health benefits for employees, according to research published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, which finds that this layout encourages physical activity while at work—20% more when compared to workers in office cubicles and 32% for those in private offices.
And finally, given that the world of work is constantly changing, it can be short-sighted to lock yourself into one type of office environment. As your team shifts through outsourcing or your products and services change, an open plan office space can be easily adapted to your new goals with a fresh furniture layout that enables new configurations.
Your Guide to Arranging Furniture for an Open Plan Office
Wondering how to arrange furniture for the optimal open floor plan office? Here are some elements you can keep in mind.
1. Provide a wide variety of spaces to accommodate different needs
From office desk furniture that allow groups to gather together, to private spaces for phone calls and one-on-one meetings, try to make sure you consider the different types of work your team does and how they can best accomplish it in an open floor plan office. Your best bet is to try to offer hybrid workstations that might include modern office desks with comfortable, modern office chairs; standing desks larger tables where teams can spread out. Cubicle desks may also be an option.
You’ll find that your team is going to be happier in their work environment when they can work where they want and mix it up when they choose. Some times they might get more work done hunkering down with their laptop on a comfy office couch; other times they might gather with a group brainstorming on a white board in a small break-out room. The beauty of an open plan office is that incorporating a variety of modern furniture allows it to flex as easily as your team does, depending on the day and project.
2. Consider acoustics
One of the only drawbacks frequently attributed to open plan offices is that the noise level can be distracting. But that can be alleviated in large part by making use of acoustics to absorb sound. Options include rugs, fabric wall panels and curtains, which you can place strategically to help make the open floor plan office a little quieter. And of course, most people these days typically work with earbuds or headphones anyway, effectively drowning out ambient noise.
You also might want to consider co-locating teams depending on their typical “volume level.” For example, a design team that’s always collaborating might prefer a space in one corner, while more heads-down workers, such as coders or accounting staff, can occupy more central real estate, as their work won’t be disturbing others—and vice versa.
The key to success in an open plan office is to encourage respect for everyone’s personal space. By establishing some ground rules about noise levels, you can ensure that teams can get their work done as needed.
3. Embrace the natural light
Even though we mentioned curtains as a tactic for absorbing sound, try to make sure that they are more decorative than functional. That’s because when you pull them over the windows, you risk sacrificing one of the major benefits of the open floor plan office—plentiful natural light streaming in from windows that are accessible to everyone.
In fact, natural light was the most desired design element in an office, according to more than 65% of respondents to the 2018 Capital One Workplace Environment Survey. On a sunny day, workers can reposition their desks, modern office chairs and laptops to drink in the sunlight rather than being stuck in their dreary office cubicle—except for the lucky few who happened to have an office window.
4. Create a “do not disrupt” signal
A closed door used to be the universal signal for “do not disturb.” But in an open plan office, you may need to get more creative. Options that other companies have used with success include lights you can affix to your modern office desk or computer that you turn red to indicate a polite “go away” directive, or green which means you are ready to chat.
In one office, workers position a painted wooden block to display red or green on their desk. Another manager uses a hat to indicate he’s available to his team. By designating a symbol, your team will know who to approach in the open floor plan office, and who is concentrating and won’t appreciate the disruption.
5. Promote security
Of course, not every job in a small business is conducive to a collaborative workspace, per se. Some functions, such as HR or legal, routinely deal with confidential matters and therefore might benefit from desks that are positioned for privacy, accompanied by desk chairs that swivel for further seclusion. These associates also might need a computer screen to keep their work discreet.
As for the security of personal items, try to make sure that employees have access to locking drawers or lockers so they can feel assured their devices and personal belongings are safe.
6. Be open to suggestions
The best part about an open plan office is that it isn’t permanent; the design and furniture layout can continue to evolve as your team does. You can make it a point to check in with your team on a regular basis to find out how the open plan office space is affecting their work and how to arrange furniture for the maximum collaborative work environment.
Would they benefit from different types of modern office furniture? Is the team always being respectful to one another? Staying attuned to their thoughts and feelings can help ensure that the open plan office remains a benefit to all.
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