DATE: 05/29/2015

The open-office floorplan – creative catalyst or employee nightmare?

In recent years, collaborative workspaces have boomed in popularity. Though no one can agree upon “the first” to pioneer the concept, the honor is most often bestowed upon Google.

Once photos of their corporate headquarters leaked online, it was only a matter of time before tech start-ups from San Francisco to Brooklyn began emulating the Internet behemoth; embracing the benefits of enhanced creativity, lower costs and a more “youthful” appearance. As more established companies began to follow suit, research scientists soon became interested in studying the effects of open-office floor plans.

A 2007 Cornell University study found open plans increase communication, trust and tactile learning. The study also found employees were much more able to read “visual cues” that helped them avoid interrupting co-workers during inconvenient moments. Yet, numerous subsequent studies found the plans unfavorable; citing increased stress, employee turnover and more sick days being used than in traditional plans.

But, despite the negative press, companies continue to “ditch” traditional offices and cubicles at record speed. More than three-quarters of U.S. companies were projected to have moved to collaborative workspaces by 2015, according to Teknion Corp.’s Workplace of the Future survey.

Confused? We don’t blame you.

The reality is the right office environment for your company will depend on your demographic and company culture, not someone else’s. As a turnkey office solutions provider for over a decade, we’ve seen open office floorplans work wonderfully for clients in a wide array of industries across the country. Some of the benefits past clients have reported include increased accountability (no more cubicle panels to hide behind while playing Angry Birds), faster response times and higher overall performance. The main factor?

Increased awareness – we’ve proven time and time again that noise levels drop, workspace clutter decreases and employees just get more done. With that said, here’s how to determine if a collaborative office plan is right for you:

1. Take an honest assessment of your company culture.

Most of the negative studies we’ve read were highly influenced by disgruntled employees within large organizations that had recently switched to collaborative floorplans. Ninety-nine percent of the “problem” within these organizations goes much deeper than the workspace itself and has more to do with company leadership than anything else.

If an organization has taught its employees to expect a culture of extreme privacy, intrusive behavior and lack of mutual respect, they will run into opposition when transferring to an open space. But if an organization has consistently operated from values like friendliness, consideration and collaboration, they’ll do just fine.

2. Get a proper analysis of your workspace.

Finding the correct partner to analyze your current workspace, culture and needs can make all the difference between a smooth or hectic space transition. At CBI, we assess all these things and more (free of charge), before making customized recommendations as to what is right for you.

The fact is, some industries, and employees, do require more privacy and that’s OK. We work with our clients to determine how they can obtain the best of both worlds – an open office floor plan built with privacy in mind; whether that be obtained through custom-designed “privacy nooks,” designated quiet areas or innovative solutions that have yet to be discovered. Ready to get started? Contact us today.