How to make the open office plan work
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
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.
The open office plan requires a change of mindset for everyone