• Brian Trimble

How to Successfully Shift to an Open Office Floor Plan


An open office plan is more than just bringing down the walls. It facilitates quicker collaboration among related teams. This is why this setup is quickly becoming a buzzword among start-ups and corporations alike. How do you guide your team effectively through such a change?


PART 1: Ideation Stage


Assess The Need

The first step in an open office plan is checking if your team even needs one.


Contrary to popular belief, not all companies need to transform into an open office setup to improve. Open office setups work well for teams that benefit from interconnected workflows, such as in marketing and strategy and IT prototyping. This may not work as well for those with more independent functions such as legal or accounting teams.


Don’t push for an open office setting if a high collaboration setup isn’t a pressing need in your department. It’s important to remember that an open office setup is meant to support the organization, not the other way around.


Create a Smooth Workflow

Before moving chairs and tables, simulate an office layout and put yourself in the team’s shoes. Which groups do you need to coordinate with? Which location(s) would enable you to be most accessible to your key partners in the organization?


Moreover, prepare for the likely event that headcount will change through the years. Some departments may even be merged entirely with others, necessitating a new layout to accommodate the change. Getting modular tables, pedestals, and rolling chairs will make succeeding moves easier and save on space as well.


Keep Communal Spaces Constant

Mark the areas in the office frequented by most, if not all, employees, and keep these constant. This makes the change less daunting for your employees and allows them to get used to a new work area gradually.


Pipes and electrical wiring that have to be rearranged to accommodate location changes could rack up your bill unnecessarily. Thus, maintaining key locations such as the break room or restroom also helps keep control of both the level of change and the costs that go with it.


PART 2: Building Stage


Adjust Available Meeting Rooms

Losing the walls in the central workplace may be conducive for collaboration, but it also makes privacy a bigger challenge. Different people have different working styles and might seek a variety of work environments to be productive. It’s good to balance both open and flexible closed spaces to accommodate these needs.


Meeting rooms will become a prime piece of real estate in the office, providing privacy and focus for serious conversations. Consider dividing your existing meeting rooms into a greater number of huddle rooms, allowing individuals to take a client call or conduct an employee performance review in peace.


Offer Temporary Walls

Getting used to the openness of an open office setup takes a while, but instead of building back permanent walls, strike a compromise by offering flexible wall options. Rolling file cabinets, whiteboards, or lightweight acrylic boards can be used to provide employees a degree of personal space while not losing out on the benefits of an open office. It helps that these double as storage and productivity solutions as well.


Use Design to Reduce Noise and Uphold Privacy

The open setup can make one feel a bit too exposed. It’s challenging to get used to taking private calls with a lot of background noise or forcing yourself to concentrate when there’s a brainstorming session you’re not part of happening nearby. Try putting up stylish and practical sound traps to cut sound as it travels throughout the room, like an elegant floor rug or hanging acoustic ceiling panels.


Having an open workspace may also make some uneasy about leaving their things unattended. Locked drawers or lockers can help with this. Departments dealing with confidential information can also be placed on the sides of the office to keep work away from roving eyes.


Go Wireless

With an excellent internet connection and cloud-based servers, multiple teams can communicate and collaborate anywhere, with or without wall sockets. Having a wireless network allows teams to consolidate space and equipment. There is no need for each employee to make space for a printer if everyone can connect wirelessly to one device, for example.


PART 3: Adoption Stage


Create New Cultural Norms

A new space also means new ways of working. Encourage new routines for your team to get used to their new space.


Having a “Do Not Disturb” sign, a green light, or their equivalent would help workmates assess each other’s availability and set boundaries in an open workspace. For groups that over-collaborate in open work setups, a designated “focus hour” where everyone works on individual tasks could help restore balance. Instead of just hollering over the fence and ruining your teammates’ concentration, you can use virtual room-booking systems to set a meeting time with everyone and give appropriate attention to team concerns.


Build an Accessible Feedback Channel

Whether the change is big or small, everyone will have an opinion. Keep yourself open to feedback, especially as the office starts operating on the new setup.


Reactions to the change will not be uniform. Some departments might need more adjusting than others. Consider disseminating online survey links regularly to assess everyone’s headspace on the shift and what needs improvement. Approach teams regularly so they know to whom they can address their concerns. A quick response to feedback will improve employee engagement and support for the initiative.


Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Some employees work best with time away from the constant buzz of an open workspace. Since open offices are all about collaboration, achieving this objective isn’t limited to the four corners of the office. Providing some days for employees to work from anywhere helps them recharge and get ready to delve back into the new normal.


Conclusion

Preparing for an open office setup isn’t as quick as it seems. But with mindful layout changes during the ideation stage, developing creative solutions in the new design, and being open and encouraging to feedback as the office adopts the new setup, you’ll get an open workplace up and running in no time.


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