Pol­icy and pur­pose can make work a plea­sure

Gulf News - - Special Report - BY JUMANA KHAMIS Staff Re­porter

The con­cept of an open plan of­fice ex­ists for the rea­sons it started in the first place - ef­fi­ciency and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” El­iz­a­beth Valkovics, Head of In­te­rior De­sign at EDGE in Dubai, told Gulf News.

Ac­cord­ing to Valkovics, a 100 per cent open-plan of­fice can “func­tion very pos­i­tively, pro­mot­ing great com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trans­parency within a com­pany.”

But there is a caveat - if an open-plan of­fice is not man­aged prop­erly in terms of op­er­a­tions and pol­icy, it can work to alien­ate or dis­cour­age the staff, she added.

Valkovics gives ex­am­ples of some things that do not work in an open plan of­fice and oth­ers that do:

A peren­nial is­sue of con­cern in an open plan of­fice is the shar­ing of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion be­tween em­ploy­ees where they are forced to whis­per to keep their con­ver­sa­tions dis­creet, said Valkovics. “Though the other staff do not need to know [about what is be­ing dis­cussed], the whis­per­ing makes them feel left out,” she said.

This can cre­ate a sense of dis­at­is­fac­tion and a greater spi­ral of spec­u­la­tion.

While a lot of staff en­joy the so­cial and col­lab­o­ra­tive as­pect of open floor plans, there are oth­ers who find it stress­ful, noisy and full of con­flict. This can af­fect their pro­duc­tiv­ity and state of mind.

“The noise level in open plan of­fices is much louder and this cer­tainly in­creases dis­trac­tions. De­pend­ing on the type of busi­ness and the op­er­a­tional strat­egy of that com­pany, the pro­duc­tiv­ity may or may not in­crease,” Volkovics said.

On the pos­i­tive side, a man­ager can find vis­i­bil­ity in what his team is work­ing on as a use­ful thing as it “be­comes a way to re­view the work with­out hav­ing to dis­tract the em­ploy­ees,” said Valkovics.

She also high­lighted that while most com­pa­nies need phys­i­cal desks and meet­ing spaces, a lot of com­pa­nies are now com­pletely cloud-based and are able to con­duct global busi­nesses from any­where they choose.

“There are al­ready great ex­am­ples of co-work­ing spaces where com­pa­nies share of­fices or one can rent an of­fice by the hour.

“This strat­egy favours the in­di­vid­ual and small- to medium-sized com­pa­nies, but we will see some in­ter­est­ing so­lu­tions to run­ning global busi­nesses,” she said, re­fer­ring to the fu­ture of of­fices.

“As tech­nol­ogy im­proves, we will adapt our of­fices and work­ing prac­tices,” she added.

“Lack of pri­vacy is a very com­mon com­plaint,” said Valkovics. “There is def­i­nitely a con­cern re­gard­ing the vis­i­bil­ity of sen­si­tive com­pany in­for­ma­tion, which can some­times be gleaned from an em­ployee’s com­puter screen.”

As a de­signer of open-plan of­fices, she said the feedback from em­ploy­ees is split equally in favour of pro­duc­tiv­ity and ma­jor con­cerns about dis­trac­tions.

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