Many business owners are ditching their cubicles, taking down the walls of their private offices, and choosing the flow of side-by-side desks over stuffy dividers.
There is good intention behind this new approach to the workspace. Bosses set up these layouts so that business goes smoother, and productivity can increase. While roughly 70 percent of U.S. offices contain low or no partitions, one question that has been floating around since open office layouts became popular is, “Can they really make things better?”
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a coworking space layout, so that you can decide the best course of action to take for your own organization.
The hierarchal system that resides in many offices has been known to create feelings of disdain. When CEOs, presidents, and other C-level executives have enormous, private lairs while the rest of the staff is stuffed into surrounding cubicles, resentment is sure to creep up. To lower level employees, such architectural displays can seem unfair, especially if certain ‘doors’ are usually closed. This says to employees, “I’m too busy for you.”
An open office layout can help to solve this problem. If bosses are sitting with their employees, it can bring a feeling of camaraderie and show employees that everyone is in it together. It also demonstrates a refreshing form of accessibility when a company’s leaders show interest in their team’s needs, wants, and, opinions.
Employees like Susan from Accounting and Brad from IT may have never found a chance to interact when they worked in the far reaches of Office Space. But upon sitting near each other in an open layout, they may end up brainstorming ways to improve the functions of both of their departments. And that sort of new connection could spread across other areas and departments, eventually benefiting the company as a whole.
According to CNBC.com and a study from the Harvard Business Review, “Companies that encourage collaboration by switching from closed-offices to open-offices realize performance increases (speed and accuracy of work) by 440%.” Healthy, productive relationships, as well as the chance for collaboration between different parties, are huge advantages that can derive from the open office layout.
Another advantage is the amount of money a coworking environment can save business owners. Up front costs are lower if owners don’t have to worry about building walls, purchasing cubicles, and spending money on individual workers’ needs.
But not all the statistics about coworking layouts are positive. Some may even discourage business owners from ever trying such ventures.
The coworking layout plan is not for everyone. There’s a chance it could, in fact be detrimental to some businesses.
A study reported in the Huffington Post that looked at 42,000 workers in the United States revealed that employees who had their own private offices were more satisfied than those sitting at collaborative desks. Fast Company’s Jason Feifer, who worked in an open office, said that interruptions are more likely to occur in these environments. Someone who is busy may have trouble completing tasks if noisy coworkers surround them. That guy with the heavy bass bleeding through his headphones, the loud-talker that laughs at his own jokes, that woman that smacks her gum loudly and hums to herself. Throwing those character types into the mix could change things for the setting.
Additionally, employees may be uncomfortable working side by side with their bosses and fellow workers. They might feel as if they’re being spied on, or that their every move is being watched. While Lifehacker reports that conversation does happen more frequently, it’s mainly short and casual because there is a lack of privacy. Many tune out their coworkers by wearing noise canceling headphones, which completely kills the chance at collaboration.
Bosses who are only hoping to advance their businesses construct open offices. However, the benefits of these offices don’t always outweigh the downfalls.
Coworking: Making It Work For You
So, what’s the next step if you’re convinced that coworking is for you?
First, create pockets of escape where employees can go and get a moment to themselves. They’ll need quiet areas to make phone calls and talk to customers, after all. Some individuals have a hard time concentrating on their work in the open office environment, and giving them an optional retreat shows that you respect everyone’s productive process. Not just those that can thrive in the chaos and bustle.
Make sure to include a few private spaces where teams or groups can go for meetings. This is where the true collaboration can really thrive! Establishing a separation between collective and individual work is key. No one wants to hold a serious discussion at a long desk, surrounded by the entire staff. Not to mention, workers that aren’t involved in said meetings will appreciate the chance to complete their projects without disruption.
Eliminating the private offices of C-level executives may not be the best idea for your business. The key decision makers at your company occasionally need their privacy, as they are extremely busy and wrapped up in work. However, it’s a good idea to establish set hours of availability throughout the week. Bosses that make themselves available for one-on-one meetings and company-wide discussions earn a higher level of respect from their team. Mid-day and lunch breaks are always feasible windows of time to lend an ear and leave your door open.
The blueprint and design you choose for your office should inevitably depend on what works best for your company. Every brand has its own strategy. Keep yours in mind when making that decision.
Yet at the end of the day, your personal preferences should be the last thing you consider. If your employees are the glue that keeps your company together, it’s important to make sure you’re all on the same page. Because no matter what office style your team inhabits, the end-goal should always be the same: to work together towards creating something amazing every single day.
Do you use a coworking layout in your office? How has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments section below.
Header image by Fabio Comparelli. Embedded images by Tristan Bowersox, David Wall, Lars Plougmann, Loozrboy, Shawn Allen, Arden, BAKOKO, Michael Pickard, and Wonderlane.
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