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. However, the negatives tend to outweigh the positives when employers don’t provide solutions to the most common complaints workers have, such as:
- Lack of privacy
- Loud volume
- Reoccurring distractions
- Poor ventilation
- Interpersonal conflict
- Poor hygiene
The privacy void seems to be the most prevalent issue, partly because it's linked to sound and distraction-related complaints.
Businesses that utilize open office plans may underestimate how valuable isolation is to the majority of people. A 2018 survey revealed that a group of workers from various industries would be will willing to give up several amenities for more seclusion at work, including bonuses, vacation days, window access and coffee machines
It takes a receptive employer & staff unity to create a work environment that is more functional and positive. An office has a significant impact on workers' mood and mental health. Creating a comfortable environment is absolutely essential, no matter the industry.
Tips, Tricks, and Simple Changes for Open Offices
Establish Rules & Etiquette
Coming together to establish mutually agreed-upon regulations is a great way of avoiding the drawbacks of an open office plan. Scheduling a meeting where everyone can make suggestions and air their concerns will produce a more cohesive and focused environment. At the top of your list should be curtailing the following:
- Loud music
- Food that smells or is loud to eat
- Unreasonably noisy conversations
- A lack of personal space
- No established hierarchy
Having follow-up meetings every month or so will ensure these guidelines are being followed and provide an opportunity to add more rules as needed.
Trying to conduct an important phone call when your coworkers are chatting right next to you can be incredibly frustrating. A study from the Humboldt University in Berlin revealed that it takes, on average, 23 minutes for an employee’s brain to fully refocus after being interrupted.
Needless to say, this can be very detrimental when trying to successfully navigate what may be a difficult phone conversation. Outside of noise and distractions, some employees are unable to meet their full potential due to the insecurity that comes with having to do their work in front of so many of their peers.
Having a phone booth installed in your office allows for workers to conduct sensitive calls in private. This is beneficial for both work-related and important personal calls. In either case, they’ll be able to speak without feeling limited by those nearby and without being interrupted by coworkers or other office distractions.
A small, one-person phone booth can easily create a more functional and productive environment.
Open office plans are regularly associated with an increase in sick days. Being in such close proximity to co-workers makes it easy for everything from the sniffles to the flu to get around the office. Having antibacterial wipes readily available for everyone will help people keep their workplaces clean, including their phones, keyboards, and desks.
Ensuring that workers all have access to hand sanitizer will also help reduce the spread of illness. Small changes can go a long way in this case, and it’s well worth that little bit of effort to lower the need for sick days and protect the health of your employees.
Take a Break in Office Recharge Rooms
Working in any office, open or not, can at times become overwhelming. Having a space where employees can destress from the day's events is hugely important. Being able to sit or even lie down somewhere that is soundproof will help people focus on relaxing rather than being preoccupied with work.
A break room, or a recharge room, should offer certain amenities that help employees get their mind off work. Think of adding:
- Ping Pong Tables
- Foosball Tables
- Meditation Areas
- Couches and Bean Bags
- Fans and Great Ventilation
- Cooking Space
If the office doesn’t have a break room or recharge room, taking a moment to step outside and get some fresh air can help workers power through the day.
Shift to an Office Neighborhood or an Agile Office
Despite popular belief, an office layout can be changed without major costs. Office neighborhoods and agile office layouts incorporate some of the best aspects of an open office while still offering private areas like phone booths and soundproof meeting rooms.
Office neighborhoods are ideal for larger companies with multiple floors, as it allows them to designate certain areas for different types of assignments. This renders a workplace more adaptable to the ever-changing needs of its employees.
As an agile office is more flexible, it is often used to accommodate workplaces with more modern employment styles (such as remote employees). Having an agile office means that elements of the workplace can be shifted.
The easiest and most effective way of incorporating these office layouts is through buying versatile, functional office furniture.
Furniture Tips to Improve Open Office Plans
Office furniture can have a profound impact on the happiness and productivity of any employee. Choosing furniture and products that provide comfort and flexibility for everyone is well worth the investment. Here are a few examples of furniture that will empower workers in any office layout.
You don't have to put up the partitions of a traditional closed office environment, but having visually appealing, easy-to-move privacy panels can help establish personal space and hierarchy.
Movable Office Furniture
Being able to move desks and chairs around will help create space and distance between workers when necessary. This comes in handy if someone is feeling unwell, wants some personal space, or if a small group of employees needs to work on a project together.
Zenbooth's versatile Single, Duo, and Quad units neatly fit into almost any workspace. These soundproofed rooms come with 3.5-inch thick walls and echo absorption panels that allow workers to get away from every office distraction.
Their aesthetically pleasing rooms come with either a white or maple exterior, but their style is subtle enough that they seamlessly complement every workplace. Their dimmable LED lights, plexiglass ceiling, and twin high-powered ventilation system make them the perfect option for a break room, group work, time-sensitive assignments, private phone calls, and much more.
Zenbooth furniture can be easily installed within an afternoon. That keeps employers from dealing with the cost, stress, and distractions that come with construction.
With free shipping, a free 30-day return period, and free installation on the Quad unit included, there's no reason not to try one for yourself. Adding one will make life easier on your open office employees.