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How to Focus & Work In An Open Plan Office By Reimagining the Layout

Over the last few decades, office spaces around the globe have dramatically transformed. From harsh, impersonal cubicles and fluorescent lighting to inviting living room style, gathering areas. Workplaces have definitely evolved for the better. 

Today's employees are often found moving freely throughout the office with their digital notepad in hand, leaving behind the shackles of segregated and cramped computer stations.

Office trends have begun to focus on ways to improve team morale and satisfaction with the hopes of inspiring greater productivity and happiness in their workers.

Why Working In An Open Office Layout Is Difficult

Software firms, media outlets, call centers, and a number of other large industry sectors have embraced the open office floor plan in an effort to reduce setup costs and maximize space.

Its also to encourage a greater amount of group collaboration. Unfortunately, these same companies are realizing that although there are a number of benefits to this layout, there are also a large number of drawbacks.

Open concept office space gives employees a sense of freedom to move about as they feel necessary, but as the group setting increases in size, so does the noise level. With no sound-dampened, quiet area to concentrate, the quality of work produced dramatically decreases.

Another unintended side effect of the larger, open-concept office area is an actual reduction in face-to-face interaction. According to the Harvard Business Review, as firms switch to an open office layout, face-to-face interactions drop by 70%. 

There could be a number of reasons for this unexpected change, but it's suspected that people create an invisible, mental barrier. This barrier is used to block out the large number of distractions going on around them, similar to an actor mentally blocking out the audience to focus on delivering their lines. 

Because there are no physical barriers to allow for escape, this quickly becomes a habit or office norm, and the majority of the employee's communication then moves to the online world.

How to Work As A Small Group in An Open Office

Another drawback to today's open office design is the lack of private areas where workers can meet and concentrate without noise and disruption from others. 

One solution available is a bit of a throwback to the office cubicle. This isn't your grandfather's grey, cramped, metallic-looking cubicle; these are beautifully crafted privacy booths that allow employees to temporarily escape the busy office environment in small groups or by themselves.

Private team congregation areas allow groups of colleagues to meet and discuss their projects. This is a flexible and reservable meeting room that complements the open-concept office space by creating areas for employees to work quietly. 

These workspaces can impact employee productivity and well-being for the better. They contribute to staff members' mental health and improve overall morale at the company.

Focusing as an Individual in An Open Floor Plan 

Similar to the issues plaguing small groups in an open office, focusing as an individual can also be a very real challenge. Constant interruptions are inevitable when the entire office has quick and easy access to everyone they see. Not to mention the constant distraction of keyboard typing, music and cell phones going off.

One solution that nicely addresses both individual privacy while maintaining an open office feel is the Zenbooth. A full suite of high-quality, office phone booths.

With its powerful yet quiet, occupancy-activated ventilation and cooling system, fresh air is circulated through the unit once every minute.

Zenbooth has incorporated a full skylight plexiglass ceiling into its design to increase the amount of natural light. This light compliments the integrated electrical lighting and provides a comfortable, spacious feeling for the occupant.

With electric, adjustable desk height options available, comfort is far from an afterthought. This setup allows for better ergonomics and a more flexible set up to accommodate any size user. 

A spring-hinged door and built-in door frame magnets ensure a quiet work environment and acoustic privacy.

Napping Stations to Recharge & Work Healthier

Studies often show that sleep deprivation and anxiety can negatively affect the relationship between leaders and employees. Giving staff the ability to recharge in a quiet room has been proven to reduce workplace stress and confrontation.

Many companies are beginning to take their employees' at-work wellness seriously and they have been reaping huge benefits. Some employers have even begun encouraging napping on the job. The idea is that a well-rested and energetic worker is a productive one, and taking a power nap can be just the boost they need to reinvigorate their mind.

With the ability to lower stress and improve productivity it only makes sense for companies to allow employees a brief 20-minute catnap throughout the day. That's just long enough to take the edge off fatigue, and wake up relaxed and refreshed.

This is where sleep pods really begin to make their mark. These small sleeping stations with soft lighting and comfortably cushioned chairs allow the worker to recharge in a matter of minutes.

Open Office Furniture and Decore

In an effort to get away from the mundane boring office furniture of the past, employers are redecorating their offices with more bold and contrasting colors. Random patterns, Picasso inspired wall art and a wide variety of playful and unusual accent pieces all help spark creativity and encourage outside-the-box thinking.

It's important when designing in such a wild and imaginative way to incorporate ergonomic practices into the design process. Some companies have spent thousands of dollars on interesting and unusual furniture only to find out that no one is using it because it just doesn't meet the team's comfort needs.

Incorporating natural textures and materials into the redesign of the office space has been shown to improve employee morale and output. 

Creating Unique Office Zones

Many large open offices have created office zones or areas, each with a different feel to help individuals enjoy a better work-life balance. The idea is to create variety and allow employees to vary their location based on changing moods throughout the day. 

By offering several different work environment options they help promote a feeling of relaxation which in turn makes it easier and more pleasant for employees to work longer and more focused hours.

Many employers have also begun assigning creative themes to the different areas of the office including modern decore, cool retro styles or perhaps abstract art pieces.

Healthier, more thoughtfully-planned workspaces are something the majority of employees are looking for as many folks spend up to a third of their life at work. According to the Fellows Workplace Wellness Trend Report, 87% of workers would prefer if their current employer created a healthier workspace including more nutritious lunch options, ergonomic seating and fitness facilities.

Adding Recreational Areas

Often it's not a nap that's needed but just a few minutes to take your mind off things; the ability to walk away from a problem, focus on something menial and then return with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. 

Recreational sections built into the office space that incorporate games and activities are beginning to pop-up everywhere. These are created to help fight back against a number of work-related illnesses such as repetitive motion disorders. 

Activities such as foosball are ideal for smaller areas, and ping pong is excellent for a medium-sized office. Large offices with large workforces, seem to gravitate more towards the small gym or workout area that promotes even greater physical movement.

Use The Above Layout Tips To Work Better & Improve Focus In An Open Plan Office

Working in an open office setup has its pros and cons, but many of the cons are easily overcome with some simple planning and small layout investments. 

Whether you're looking for ideas to take to upper management to improve your office setup or you're a CEO deciding if your new location needs to have an open feel to it, remember to keep the design clean and simple. Consider investing in office phone booths and other unique productivity solutions.

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