How to make the open of­fice plan work

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Sukhdeep Au­rora let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com The au­thor is Chief Peo­ple Of­fi­cer ­ ANAROCK Prop­erty Con­sul­tants

The best com­pa­nies at­tract the best­tal­ent, but­thebest­tal­en­talso knows its value and will al­ways have its sights on even bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is why a toprank­ing com­pany will fo­cus on em­ployee re­ten­tion at least as much as on ac­quir­ing right tal­ent.

The fact that the best tal­ent will be the most pro­duc­tive is more or less a given – that’s why they are the best. A com­pany’s most pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ees will bring per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity and own­er­ship to their work, so they­knowthattheir­pro­duc­tiv­ity is closely in­ter­linked with their own ca­reer growth within the firm.

How­ever, it goes with­out say­ing that an or­ga­ni­za­tion must also do­ev­ery­thin­git canto­fos­ter not only em­ployee pro­duc­tiv­ity but also sat­is­fac­tion and a sense of be­ing val­ued, and ‘be­long­ing’. One of the pri­mary means of do­ing this is bypro­vidin­ga­nen­abling work­place en­vi­ron­ment. Adopt­ing an open­office plan can be one of the best ways of achiev­ing this.

Open of­fices have their de­trac­tors - and, in manyin­di­vid­ual cases, some of the ob­jec­tions do­have­merit. How­ever, it is also truethatwhenanopenof­fice­fails to yield the de­sired re­sults and even­re­sult in de­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, it is not be­causeof aflawed con­cept but be­cause of faulty im­ple­men­ta­tion.

With­out a doubt, the worst mis­take­sacom­pa­ny­con­sid­er­ing the adop­tion of an open of­fice work­place en­vi­ron­ment are ap­ply­ing a cookie- cut­ter ap­proachand­not­fac­toringinthe spe­cific needs of their busi­ness and em­ploy­ees.

GET­TING THE EQUA­TION RIGHT

busi­ness­mod­elisessen­tial­ly­con­sul­ta­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive. For ex­am­ple, let us take the real es­tate con­sul­tan­cy­busi­ness. Alot of the work which hap­pens in a suc­cess­ful real es­tate con­sul­tan­cyis, al­most­by­def­i­ni­tion, con­sul­tancy based.

The con­sult­ing as­pect is not merely an out­ward func­tion re­lated to clients, but also an in­ward-fo­cused dy­nam­icin­volv­ing the free ex­change of knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion. The open of­fice plan­work­s­pre­cise­lyinthis man­ner – it en­cour­ages in­ter­ac­tion, team­workand the free flow of in­for­ma­tion. Th­e­seare­crit­i­cal in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess in a real es­tate con­sul­tancy.

A com­pany must en­sure that the adop­tion of the open of­fice plan does not in­volve con­gested pock­ets but a due level of per­sonal space. Sim­ply jam­ming large pop­u­la­tions to­gether with­outany­par­tic­u­lar­plan, mere­lyto yield as­man­y­workspace­sas­pos­si­ble, is rarely any­thing­but­counter-pro­duc­tive.

The­p­lan­must­beawel­com­ing one, and for this, spa­cious­ness and the right fa­cil­i­ties for dif­fer­ent func­tions to de­liver on their as­signed work are de rigueur.

Openseat­ingspaces­need­tobe complemented with break­out rooms­fors­mall­erteam­meet­ings and­meet­ingswith­clients, aswell as recre­ational ar­eas. An­other veryessen­tial as­pect is the pro­vi­sion of suf­fi­cient close-door ‘phone­booths’in­te­grate­d­in­tothe plan to en­able an un­hin­dered en­vi­ron­ment for im­por­tant or

OPEN SEAT­ING SPA­CES NEED TO BE COMPLEMENTED WITH BREAK­OUT ROOMS

con­fi­den­tial calls.

An­other as­pect that must be fac­tored in is that dif­fer­ent teams have dif­fer­ent ways of work­ing op­ti­mally. For in­stance, a re­search team needs a cer­tain de­gree of pri­vacy as the re­search pro­ces­sis­in­tensely­a­ca­dem­i­cand of­ten also in­volves con­fi­den­tial data. Trans­ac­tion teams, on the other hand, must in­vari­ably work in close con­junc­tion with ea­chother- es­pe­cially in the case of multi-plat­form man­dates, whichre­quirethein­volve­mentof sev­eral dif­fer­ent teams.

OVERCOMING CHANGE RE­SIS­TANCE

The open of­fice plan re­quires a change of mind­set for ev­ery­one com­ingfromaback­ground­of­tra­di­tional of­fice set­ups. The se­nior lead­er­ship mustlead­byex­am­ple by be­ing the first and quick­est to adapt. Many new firms to­day be­gan with the open of­fice plan. How­ever, many em­ploy­ees – in­clud­ing se­nior man­age­ment – tend to come from a tra­di­tional of­fice en­vi­ron­ment.

Throw­ing ev­ery­one into the wa­ter and as­sum­ing that they will swim be­cause there is no other op­tion is not the right way of ap­proach­ing the in­evitable chan­g­ere­sis­tance. It is im­por­tant that the com­pany cre­ates suf­fi­cient aware­ness about the un­doubted ben­e­fits of the open of­fice lay­out.

Au­dio-vi­su­als which ex­plain theopenof­fi­cephi­los­o­phyin­general andthes­pe­cific lay­out in this com­pany, in par­tic­u­lar, can be very use­ful in help­ing new em­ploy­ees to grasp its pur­poses and ben­e­fits.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the or­ga­ni­za­tion must en­sure that the open of­fice plan re­mains in­her­ently flex­i­ble. Theeven­tu­al­i­ty­of­fu­ture changes­must­be­fac­tore­d­i­natthe de­sign stage it­self. The com­pany mustal­waysopen­to­sug­ges­tions for cer­tain­changes­fro­ma­l­llevels of staff, take gen­uinely valu­able sug­ges­tions se­ri­ously and also im­ple­ment them.

The idea should not be to en­force a rigid sys­tem but to cre­ate a whole­some, dy­namic work en­vi­ron­ment which can change ac­cord­ing to evolv­ing needs.

Here are some broad-based sug­ges­tions on get­ting the open of­fice equa­tion right:

Pro­vide a recre­ational area andafriendly, wel­com­ing­cafe­te­ria. With­out these, it all boils down to work, counter-in­tu­itively re­sult­ing in the least pro­duc­tive of work en­vi­ron­ments.

In­cor­po­rate the con­cept of col­lab­o­ra­tive spa­ces into the work­place de­sign - work­sta­tions de­signed with­semi-in­for­mal el­e­ments­like so­fas, cush­ioned high chairs, lounge fur­ni­ture and roundta­bleswhich­help­break­the mo­not­o­nous line- seat­ing ar­range­ment, en­able in­for­mal in­ter­ac­tions and col­lab­o­ra­tion, and­cre­atea‘cool’ work-en­vi­ron­ment pre­ferred by mil­len­ni­als.

En­sure avail­abil­ity of ad­e­quate nat­u­ral light and use mo­tion-sen­sor lights to en­sure that the work­place en­ables pro­duc­tiv­ity while re­main­ing sus­tain­able and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient

Prob­a­bly­mostim­por­tantly, do not rely on­work­placedesignele­ments alone, but sup­port these with en­gag­ing ini­tia­tives to en­sure em­ploy­ees re­main en­thusedan­d­i­na­pos­i­tives­ta­teof mind. The open of­fice model can be ideal for fos­ter­ing a sense of strength in num­bers, and non­work re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties which re­in­force this feel­ing can bring out the best in peo­ple.

MINT/FILE

The open of­fice plan re­quires a change of mind­set for ev­ery­one

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