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Posts tagged "open office"

Office trends come and go, with some businesses eagerly jumping on the bandwagon. One such trend is the concept of open-plan office spaces.

A report from the International Facility Management Association revealed that 70 percent of offices use an open floor plan.

Initially intended as a cost-cutting measure for reducing the square footage of office space, the open design  was believed to encourage collaboration and communication among teammates. In reality, the open space concept reduced worker productivity. It has ultimately led to businesses devising new ways to make the open office more private.

Open Office Spaces by the Numbers

A 2018 Harvard study showed open office spaces reduced communication among coworkers. Another report found that open office environments produced a negative effect on employees, including decreased attention span and productivity. The same report found elevated stress levels among employees subjected to such workspaces.

In addition to feeling stressed and distracted, some expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs because of the open layout. Being forced to work in an environment that was not conducive to encouraging productivity led those same employees to find it necessary to search for other employment.

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Touted as the “cure” to row after row of soul-sucking cubicles, open office spaces promised collaboration, innovation, increased productivity and so much more.

With their cost-efficient design, clean look and supposed productivity boost, open offices sounded like the perfect setup…until they didn’t.

A study done in 2018 by Harvard Business School discovered that face-to-face interaction between coworkers decreased by 70 percent when employees moved from a closed workspace to an open office environment. Exactly the opposite of what they’re supposed to do!

For the most part, employees are less happy in open office spaces where distraction and lack of privacy make working difficult. And employee dissatisfaction means decreased productivity and higher turnover. Another 2018 study found that approximately 13 percent of office employees considered quitting their job because of this office layout.

Let’s talk about some of the most common open office problems and what you can do to mitigate them.

1. Loud Noise With No Escape

It’s no surprise that corralling dozens of employees in the same spaces is going to create noise. Even the necessary, everyday office functions like collaborating with a coworker on a project, printing documents or even simply typing can contribute to the level of noise pollution in an office.

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The open-plan office is the most basic and conventional workspace layout today, with 70 percent of American companies having adopted a form of open floor design. 

But even though many employers favor the idea of having employees work at arms length of each other, this layout scheme actually diminishes productivity because what workers really crave is privacy.

How Workers Operate Without Privacy in Open-Plan Offices

A majority of employers believe that an open office encourages face-to-face interactions between coworkers, boosting workplace collaboration. It also seems easier to manage and supervise employees without physical barriers breaking the field of view. Do these claims hold any truth, and is such close supervision really necessary or welcome in a work environment?

A recent Harvard study investigating the correlation between open office architecture and collaboration found that the former does not inspire teamwork and is actually counterproductive. Firms that switched to open offices saw a 70-percent drop in face-to-face interactions. Besides, forced co-presence, which is what an open floor plan promotes, does not necessarily result in productive cooperation among coworkers.

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Once considered a workplace innovation, the open office has become the norm in many industries. Proponents cite the ease of collaboration and communication among coworkers. Team members need only look up from their desk or turn around in their chair to bounce ideas off their colleagues.

These advantages, however, have a flip side. Constant accessibility brings frequent interruptions, overheard phone conversations and background noise. Employees cannot control their environment, and their productivity and health suffer.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The open office features that proponents love the most have turned out to be headaches for employees. Researchers have found that an open office actually discourages collaboration and productivity. Studies show that drawbacks to working in an open office include

  • Lack of privacy
  • Constant noise
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of engagement
  • Employee stress
  • Smaller workspaces
  • Lack of choice in workspace areas

Overload and Distraction

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Working in an open office has more drawbacks than one might assume. The loss of privacy and partitions results in harmful consequences that make it difficult to complete your work. Thankfully, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to get past these irritating office design laws. 

Some will help you get through the week while others will help you and your coworkers become a more cohesive team (and not drive each other insane). 

So whether you’re an employee or an employer, here's some expert advice on how to work in an open office and some ideas for how to change the layout so that it works for everybody!

First, What’s It Like Working in an Open Office?

Working in an open office gives you more immediate access to all your coworkers, which comes with both benefits and detriments. 

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Many employers underestimate the effect that the workplace and office layout can have on their employees' mental health. 

Studies show that the average person spends approximately 33 percent of their waking hours at work, so it should come as no surprise that their work environment can profoundly shift their mood and well-being.

The open office layout is a favorite for modern workplaces as open offices are believed to create more space, ease communication, and promote teamwork among employees. Unfortunately, there are several downsides to the layout that can result in an increased rate of both anxiety and depression among workers. 

Given recent findings that a great office layout can improve an employee's mood by 33 percent, employers should make bigger investments in their floor plans. There are ways of altering an open office layout to have it accommodate employees better, but it's important first to understand why the open layout can be so problematic. 

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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.

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Open offices are increasingly found on the list of things workers find most annoying. For many, this doesn't come as a surprise. 

No sense of hierarchy, constant distractions, and a lack of privacy are just a few of the common criticisms made by those who work in open offices.

But what direction can companies go? Closed offices, with their cubicles and dividers, are seen by many as a thing of the past. They discourages collaboration and teamwork. With every office layout, there comes a sleuth of downsides.

Those disadvantages can result in a lower rate of productivity for your entire team. Is there a way to get the best of both worlds in your office layout? Yes! Read on to find out how.

Why Privacy Matters in Open Offices

The ability to work and conduct meetings, phone calls, and interviews in private is hugely important in any office. The biggest drawback of an open office layout is that privacy becomes much harder to achieve.

While making your office more collaborative is frequently the touted goal among those with open layouts, it should be noted that collaboration is important WHEN it's time to work together. When a worker is trying to finish a time-sensitive task, distractions and the input of others may only slow them down.

 

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There are several reasons to opt for an open office layout. It allows for better communication, more flexibility, and an overall more attractive aesthetic. The primary reason not to go for an open office layout? The lack of privacy. 

Workers in open offices across the country are suffering from the distractions, the disruptions, and the lack of confidentiality that come with taking down the walls and partitions in the workspace. 

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The good news is that you don't have to choose between privacy and flexibility.

Open Office Conference Rooms

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The ideal office promotes both privacy and communication. With today’s emphasis on workplace collaboration and teamwork, the open office concept can be alluring. But it needs the right open space furniture. 

Workstation design has evolved from the static cubicle to an assortment of movable and versatile furniture pieces. Employees can now organize meetings whenever they are needed, and can consult with coworkers who are just feet away.

This flexibility helps prevent the downside of the open office plan. Researchers have found that the constant accessibility can be distracting and tiring for employees. 

A Harvard University study of Fortune 500 companies found that the open office concept appeared to be backfiring. Face-to-face communication among employees had decreased by 73 percent and e-mail usage increased by 67 percent.

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An open office layout encourages flexibility and tends to be more affordable. 

However, the downsides to having an open layout can have a profound effect on your team's efficiency and mood. The distractions, noise, and lack of privacy, in particular, can easily take away from the overall performance of the office.

These findings have been supported by reliable statistics time and time again. A public opinion survey conducted by YouGov found privacy to be a higher priority among employees than many assumed. 

Their survey revealed that, if it meant having access to a private work area, 13% of respondents would give up their end-of-year bonuses, 17% would give up access to a window, and probably the most condemning statistic of all, 27% would give up access to the office coffee machine. 

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Openness: we experience a positive response when we hear this word, compared to the cold restriction of a word like 'closed'. We expect that openness engenders honesty, transparency and a free passage of ideas.

Most of us see value in the collaborative nature of open-source software, and marvel at people and businesses that are open to change and new opportunities. However, what we gain with openness, we lose with privacy and comfort.

As human beings, we value our privacy, both at home and at work. A high regard for privacy is vital to accomplishing high focus tasks or sharing sensitive information, and employees often need to be able to speak freely away from the ears of their co-workers. 

Walls help minimize the distractions, interruptions and noise that derail the focus workers need to produce good results.

 

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The open plan office is a popular choice for achieving a modern looking workplace. It allows for maximum design creativity and personal approachability while remaining affordable. 

It's especially popular for startup businesses and any business that requires heavy collaboration among its team members. 

But it comes with a price: no privacy and very little quiet. It's still possible to make the most out of an open plan office design and its benefits without breaking the bank. Here are 3 tips to do exactly that.

1. Make it personal and efficient

Your open plan office should reflect your company's values. Motivational walls boost morale, while personalized workspaces create a sense of belonging. 

25-30% of open office employees are dissatisfied with the level of workplace noise. Some positions naturally require prolonged, high levels of concentration. Are any of your employees sitting in inconvenient areas? It doesn't hurt to ask employees what they think about where they're sitting, either.

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Working for yourself can get lonely, especially if you work from home and have little contact with your co-workers or partners. However, renting an office can be a bit too expensive.

These are just a couple of reasons co-working spaces have become more popular. But creating the right look in a co-working space can be difficult, especially if you have little room or funding. 

This article will discuss seven co-working space furniture ideas that help owners & entrepreneurs create the right environment for their needs.

We'll also discuss ideas that can help co-working space members increase productivity and encourage more communication between their team.

coworking space furniture

Office Phone Booth Furniture

The open office concept may encourage more social interaction, but sometimes people need to work without distractions or noise around them. This is where noise-isolated phone booths provided by Zenbooth, can be useful.

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If you manage or own a business that uses an open office layout, you may be wondering "What's the best furniture for our work environment?" 

Perhaps you’ve recently relocated the office or want a bit of an upgrade.

Here are some tips to help you find the best furniture for open offices, both for collaborative functions and for privacy and noise reduction.

Office Furniture for Employee Collaboration

The main reason most businesses use open office formats is that they hope it will improve employee collaboration and make work easier. In some instances, this works, but there are downsides.

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If you work in or manage an open office, you may have already discovered the many pitfalls of these environments.

Open offices aren’t as beneficial as intended but there are phone booth furniture solutions available for companies not looking to move or reconstruct their entire floor. 

Keep the Open Office Benefits, Lose the Downsides

Open offices were originally created to make it easier for employees to work as a team and to collaborate on projects. However, many businesses don’t require this level of openness but use open office layouts nonetheless. 

While 70 percent of offices in the US have zero or low partitions, only 10 percent of workers believe “ease of interaction” is a problem for them.

Instead, open offices cause more problems than they solve. The downfalls of open office designs include:

  • Noise created by coworkers, equipment, music, and ambient elements
  • Visual distractions, like people constantly walking by
  • Lack of privacy
  • Decreased professional image to clients and visitors
  • Increased feelings of employees being hovered over or supervised all the time

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Creating an office design that works for everyone can be challenging. Small individual offices are quiet and more private, but at the same time they can be isolating and take up too much space. 

Open offices are great for collaboration, yet they can be very distracting, creating a noticeable drop in productivity. So what’s the solution?

Ideally companies want mixture of both worlds, and they can find it in a new concept called office neighborhoods.

What's Inside an Office Neighborhood & How It Helps Your Business

Office neighborhoods provide a great compromise between a completely open plan office design and a more closed off style with cubicles and fully enclosed office spaces.

Companies embracing the office neighborhood concept ditch the traditional idea of everyone having a fixed workspace and instead create flexible activity-focused work zones that employees can move between freely.

Office neighborhoods split the workforce into groups or “communities” who need to work together on a particular day or for longer term projects. Being a part of a community instills a sense of belonging and promotes collaboration and communication between team members.

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When you think of an open office environment, what comes to mind? For some people, it’s a cool, Millennial-style office space straight out of Silicon Valley, full of low-slung sofas and coffee tables. But for others, it’s an unproductive petri dish, where they have to fight to maintain their concentration.

While originally heralded as the solution to poor teamwork and over reliance on electronic versus face-to-face communication, open offices are slowly being revealed for what they really are: a detriment to the workforce. Here’s a look at the negative effects of open office environments, along with what you can do to reduce their impact in your business workspace.

Open Office Environments Produce Excess Noise

Noise pollution is frequently cited as one of the biggest downsides to an open style workspace. There are numerous work related examples that affect office volume levels, including:

  • Far too many employees in the same area
  • Construction of the environment (“live” space that echoes vs. dampened sound)
  • Amount of phone talk required for work
  • Noise from work machines (printers, buzzers, etc.)

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Over the past decade open-plan workspaces have gained popularity across the country despite studies showing that they're not in workers' favor. 

It's an office design concept that encourages collaborating together and a smooth flow of information from peer to peer. However, with an open-plan workspace comes a few new etiquette tips that you may want to practice so you can mitigate its downsides.

These tips can help ensure that everyone is comfortable and able to get their work done in a timely manner. 

1. Be Mindful of Your Noise Level 

Open-plan workspaces don't have a lot of buffers for noise, and people cause distractions as they move around and work together. This can make it very hard for people to hear important phone calls, conference calls or to concentrate on their work. 

It's essential that you're mindful of your own volume. Speak at an indoor level, set your phone's ringer on silent or so it's not as loud as it can possibly be, and have extended conversations away from the workspace. If you enjoy listening to music, always bring headphones. 

2. Consider a Separate Meeting Space 

If you have a lot of group meetings, webinars, or conference calls, consider having a separate space for these activities, like an office meeting pod. It should be closed off from the open workspace. This will provide a buffer for your group to complete their calls and webinars without interrupting your coworkers who are working on different projects. 

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In 2016, we at Zenbooth set out on a mission to help individuals overcome the challenges of the “open-office” and introduced the single-person Comfort Booth. Now, after several iterations, the new two-person model is tackling even more of those pain points, such as the lack of adequate spaces to have private conversations.

From small businesses to larger corporate offices, the open-concept floor plan has made it challenging for the modern worker to not only collaborate with others, but to simply find focus. Conference rooms are often scarce. They can be difficult to book, or simply too much room for one or two people to occupy, when the room could be used for larger groups. The Executive Booth XL is the answer for employers looking for ways to make better use of their space.

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Companies have recently placed a heavy importance on office morale and space utilization. Savvy business owners are finding innovative ways to achieve positive outcomes in these areas while maximizing savings. 

One trendy way to refresh the workplace for you and your employees is to opt for an agile office layout. Companies like Zenbooth eliminate the downsides of open-style offices with modern phone booth furniture.

Why Are Open Offices So Popular?

Proponents of open offices argue that they can be much more cost effective than cubicles and private offices. It's no wonder that 70% of offices now have no partitions — or if they do have them, they're at very low height. 

It's true that open offices can make better use of space. The "open area" allows workers to share resources, so you can purchase fewer printers and the like. The more meaningful benefits of the open office, however, revolve around collaboration. That's why it's ironic that many of the challenges presented by open offices relate to employees' peak performance.

Is Communication Better Between Co-Workers?

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Trendy does not always translate into top results. One egregious modern example lies in the “bullpen” style open office concepts​ that swept American workspaces two decades ago. Buoyed by the seemingly advanced techniques of technology companies in California and elsewhere, many businesses convinced themselves that open office represented a future thinking and progressive organizational style.

It did not hurt that open office plans cost less money to construct and maintain.

Some advocates insist that open office provides the best possible space for collective effort and that young workers prefer it. Others argue that the open office style blocks concentration, reduces productivity, and even harms workers’ mental and physical health.

Visual Distractions Hurt Concentration . . .

Nearly three out of every four American offices have low or no partitions separating employee work areas. Almost one-third rate visual distractions as a real problem that interferes with productive work.

open plan office anxiety

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An open plan office design is favored by many employers, yet recent research shows that this layout could be hampering your workers' productivity, as well as their health. 

The Open Plan Office Design Negatively Affects Morale

If you've been searching for ways to boost your workers' morale in an effort to increase productivity, chances are you haven't considered making changes to your office layout. The office environment plays an important role in your employees' happiness. The office layout has a lot to do with it, but it's often overlooked. 

In an open office plan, workers face many distractions. There is always something going on nearby. Even if they're not actively listening in on other conversations, the health effects of workplace noise alone are enough to make your employees miserable. It can be hard to concentrate on a project when there is so much else going on around you.

The office temperature is often the cause of disagreements. Some like it warm - some like it cool. There's no way to please everyone. Since you can't provide everyone with their own personal airspace, the temperature issue can be a tough one.

Bad moods are often brought about by working closely together in an open office plan. In turn, someone else's bad mood can affect the rest of the group when they have to hear about it or listen to it all day.  When you're not able to focus or concentrate to get your job done, it can be stressful. There is no escaping this type of stress when you're surrounded by other people's chatter.

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Almost a decade ago corporations, following the example of Google and others, adopted the open office floor plan​. Both startups and established firms, big and small, rushed to redesign and embrace what they thought was a revolutionary concept. Even the United States Embassy in London eliminated a large number of individual offices in its recent move.

Advocates for taking down office and even cubicle walls trumpeted phrases like “community osmosis.”​ They argued that private space for concentration mattered less than increasing the opportunity for collaboration so every employee could find themselves “better tuned to the office vibe."

Open office spaces also, according to those using them, broke down the notions of hierarchy and increased flexibility of both discussion and action. It did not hurt that one large room filled with desks crammed together cost much less than separate offices or even cubicle mazes.

Younger workers, chiefly millennials, also reported that they enjoyed an open office plan more than other formats.

 

 

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Hypothetically, an open office space is supposed to provide a series of benefits to the workers within it, and, by extension, add significant revenue to the worker's company. 

To be clear, an open office is an office layout in which there aren't any significant physical barriers between one employee's work area and another's, be that a cubicle or some other form of partition.

Further, the concept is intended to prevent any separation between office workers in a professional environment, in order to promote the exchange of information.

This means that any particular desk setup is intended to be modular so that employees can be shuffled from desk cluster to cluster as the number of workers expand or contract.

Why Organizations Implement Open Office Floor Plans 

Keep in mind that at present, roughly 80 percent of all office environments employ an open office floor plan of some kind. This strategy, as we will explore, comes to the detriment of their employees.

According to the model, open offices are designed primarily to achieve four objectives:

  • They should naturally lead to “crumple zones” – deploy a layout which would be easier for expansion in a given office space as well as facilitate worker movement.

  • Employment of uniform lighting and heating – an open office design would maximize lighting in a given space, thus reducing utility costs while optimizing productivity.

  • Improved cost-effectiveness – without additional walls, open offices are intended to save any particular firm money on what is perceived to be unneeded partition equipment and construction.

  • Promote culture collision – in what is supposed to be an open setting, it is thought that otherwise unlikely encounters between co-workers will occur, which would lead to the development of new ideas which would help the firm.

Of course, any given model seems intuitive initially – but, after over half a century of usage, to what degree has the open office plan worked?

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Meetings embody the pros and cons of communal working. They offer a high-octane environment, with ideas coming in from all parts of the room. But this is not the best place to take phone calls, think or handle individually minded tasks–and definitely not for a whole day.

Meetings are hugely beneficial in short bursts of time, but they are a relatively brief part of the working day. Open offices, however, can feel like a never-ending meeting. 

Each member of the staff cannot perform their individual tasks with the distractions of working in an open office, especially without the luxury of sound proof booths​. Workers can feel over-stimulated and unable to focus, while essential, private, discreet communication is almost impossible.

 

 

We can understand how the open office concept came about. The immediacy and intimacy of face-to-face dialog offer benefits that can never be matched by electronic methods. And if enhanced communication and collaboration breed better performance, then it is reasonable to assume that any barriers, physical or otherwise, should be removed immediately. So down go the walls of the office–the interior ones, at least–and everything improves. Right?

Wrong. Staff members need time in a quiet environment to collect their thoughts and process information. Walls allow workers to handle their tasks privately, as well as find their optimum environment. These partitions also offer a sense of privacy for customers calls. 

Performance affected by the environment

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The Quickborner management team from Hamburg is credited with developing the first open office layout in the 1950’s.

But the truth is that some version of the open office layout has existed almost since the first offices came to be.

Some people will tell you that they’re the ideal setup for every business. Limited funds? An open office is the answer. Limited space? An open office is what you need. Dozens or hundreds of employees to keep an eye on? An open office is the best option.

 

For decades, it has been the go-to solution when it comes to office design. In fact, a report by the International Facility Management Association found that 70% of offices have an open floor plan.

But are they really the ideal?

According to a study of over 40,000 workers in 300 different office buildings, the answer to that question is no. And yet the open office layout lives on. As a matter of fact, the new Apple headquarters is based on the concept of an open office.

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Open Office Phone Booths Provide a Better Workplace The Advantages of Open Office EnvironmentsOpen offices are becoming more and more commonplace with each passing day. That's because the advantages of these working environments are clear and abundant. Open offices can...

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