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Hate Your Open Office Plan? Here Are 5 Ways to Improve It.

Like most successful business leaders, you’re probably always on the lookout for ways to promote a productive office environment and keep employees happy. A short while ago, it may have seemed like an open office plan was the key to a cohesive, collaborative workplace.

At first, to your great relief, employees loved it.

But now things have changed, and you’ve started to notice downsides to the new arrangement.

So now what?

Common Downsides of Open Office Plans

Many people complain that open office plans hamper their productivity. According to some research, their gripes could be spot on. Research has found that open office plans reduce productivity by an average of 15 percent. Plus, due to the noisiness associated with many open office plans, employees get interrupted approximately every three minutes, requiring an average of 23 minutes to regain concentration each time.

It’s also hard to keep everyone happy about the temperature in the office environment, and people often protest the lack of privacy when they need it. Thanks to these problems, you may be on the verge of saying goodbye to an open office environment altogether.

How Dissatisfied Employees Respond

Employees tend to make their dislike obvious if they’re frustrated by open office plans. They might wear headphones to block distractions or create makeshift walls with stacked books or boxes. Neither of these is attractive or practical, and they could cause even more distractions. Understandably, you may be seeking a better solution.

Changing your office plan can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if you just recently switched to an open arrangement. However, you can effectively modify your office plan without a complete (and expensive) redesign.

So, what can you do to improve your open office?

1. Encourage employees to send availability signals.

Open office plans can be frustrating because people can’t close their doors to indicate they don’t want to be bothered. Even so, your employees can send signals regarding their availability (or lack thereof) in multiple ways.

One solution includes putting a multicolored block on each desk. If the red side is visible, that means the person is busy, but the green side means the employee is available. Also, a manager at Coca-Cola adopted a practice that relied on a red baseball cap. When wearing it, he was not available to see visitors, unless in the case of an emergency, but people could feel free to approach him when the cap was off.

2. Implement instant-messaging apps.

The distractions of open office plans worsen if employees feel they need to shout to communicate. A barrier-free environment could even encourage that practice because people think they can make gestures or speak loudly to get the attention of individuals across the room.

You can keep noise levels lower by coaching people to use instant-messaging apps. Slack, HipChat and similar options let people collaborate and get things done without having to raise their voices, or even use them at all.

3. Offer private spaces for phone calls.

When determining how to make open offices a little more closed, some companies have decided to add closed additions to the open office layout. For example, you could add phone booths that people can step into when they need to make phone calls. These don’t cost a lot to implement, but could provide much-needed privacy as employees handle important communications.

4. Create visible barriers with non-permanent partitions.

You can maintain a significant portion of your open office plan while still incorporating a few walls. For example, many office suppliers sell moveable partitions that can easily be used to break your open office layout into sections.

Solutions such as these are especially advantageous if you’ve noticed that employees have started to create their own improvised barriers. The partitions look a lot more appealing while serving the same purpose.

You don’t have to close off everything to keep employees content. Consider using closed spaces for specific purposes, such as group meetings or lunch breaks. Alternatively, think about installing soundproof glass to provide privacy while preserving an open look.

5. Consider adding low cubicle walls.

Some employees find it much easier to concentrate and feel relaxed throughout their workdays when their spaces are defined by low cubicle walls or pods. This solution allows workers to create personal spaces while still having an open view of their colleagues. They can also mount photos, artwork or motivational sayings on the inside the walls for inspiration and encouragement.

Do you want to alter your open office plan, but don’t know where to start?

With a few smart strategies, it’s possible to make meaningful alterations to your open office plan without spending an inordinate amount of time or money. As a result, your employees may look forward to being at work again.

To learn more about effective space planning and design, call us at 877-779-3409 or complete our online form.



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