How to get the most from an open plan office

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Designers and employers prefer open plan offices because their teams can’t hide. The design is often the source of competitive building and maintenance savings; but are the employees as productive compared to when they worked from a private office space?

There are many advantages to working in an open plan office environment. The benefits can be best felt on a day when you have been extremely productive and are feeling quite positive. When the weather probably looks great and your tasks are completed on time it’s easy to talk to the colleagues closest to you and quickly share any small positive results with a conversation and a coffee.

Unfortunately, when you don’t feel 100%, your phone insists on ringing non-stop, and your paper work is mounting up, open plan offices can be a nightmare. You won’t be to get a moment of silence because all of your colleagues will be making a cacophony of noise from their office space, even if they are only typing with virtually silent keyboards.

Why employers prefer open plan office spaces

Many experts suggest that an open plan environment will always encourage a greater level of creativity and teamwork. Employees will be able to share information quickly and easily and won’t have to wait for the best moment to approach a closed door office. Open plan offices are able to pack more people efficiently into a small space and make it easier to use shared printing and other facilities.

Employers often regard successful teams as those who share a good social environment as this encourages good motivation and helps business get completed more efficiently.

Nevertheless, if you were to ask the majority of your employees for their opinions, most will prefer to work in a private office as opposed to an open floor space and leave the bonding moments for a gathering round the office water cooler. That’s because you can’t have any moments of privacy within the open idea and people feel they are being judged 100% of the time that they are at their desk.

Office rules

Where an employer insists on an open office environment, there must be common rules which should be applied and agreed by all of the employees. These will include the setting of the room’s temperature, where employees will eat and how people will respect the privacy of any individual’s work area.

How individuals will decorate their own private areas must also be governed so that people don’t take it too far outside of acceptable parameters, remembering that you are at work and not at home.

Over the course of time, individuals will learn how to work within the environment and will probably become immune to the general level of noise. People who thought they needed complete silence to able to work will quickly find that they will develop a way to ignore the background noise of an open plan office.

Once everyone understands and acts upon agreed plans of how they are to invade or stay away from a colleague’s desk area, how to make telephone manners work well and how to communicate with colleagues across the room, employees will accept that the walls are going to stay down and productivity will stabilise.

Photo credit: Jason Pratt

Well Being at Work
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