6 Tips to Transition Employees to an Open Office Layout

Six Tips to Transition Employees to an Open Office Layout

What do the offices of companies like Facebook, IBM, GE and Apple all have in common?

If you guessed that they all incorporate open office space into their design, you’d be correct. Open office layouts continue to gain popularity as many companies make the switch to encourage a more collaborative work environment.

Unsurprisingly, most of our recent projects involve at least some open concept space, although they aren’t without controversy. Many employees have complained that open workspaces have a negative effect on their productivity, make it easier for germs to spread, and dampen creativity.

I didn’t fully understand what it was like to work in an open office until I tried it for myself. Although it was difficult at first to maintain focus amid co-workers discussing their lunch plans or recent weekend trips, I eventually learned to drown out the noise and get my work done.

This foray into open seating helped me develop a deeper sense of empathy for clients making the difficult decision to move their employees out of cubicles or separate offices into one open plan layout. Along the way, I developed this list of five key actions you need to take in order to keep your employees happy and productive during this type of transition.

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeProvide phone rooms and meetings areas.  For distraction-free work and the need for private conversations, consider setting up a few hotel offices. Employees can reserve these offices for a couple of hours at a time and use them for private calls, confidential discussions, and projects that call for deep focus.

Give employees space for their personal items.  Think of the desk as your employee’s home away from home. By giving them license to personalize their space, you empower them to feel like they truly own the space. If you’re considering a hotel-seating model, which involves unassigned desks, make sure your employees have lockers where they can store personal items.

Consider acoustics. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on how a space looks. Think about how sound travels through an area and how different personality types react to various sound environments.

Offer spaces for fun.  This includes incorporating areas where employees can take their work if they need to get away, including high-top tables or casual sitting areas. I’ve even seen clients provide hammocks, lego-building areas, or yoga space so employees can take a mini-retreat during the day.

Sell the positive. Make sure you focus on the upsides of the new space instead of the potential downsides. For instance, sitting alongside your manager may make them easier to approach with new ideas. There’s also more energy in the workplace when people aren’t hidden away in enclosed offices or cubicles.

Give them time to get used to it. No matter what your personality type, it still takes time to adjust to a new way of working. Try offering headphones to people who are having a difficult time tuning out the noise. After a while, you may notice they don’t need them.

Change of any kind can be difficult for employees to handle. The most important key to a smooth transition is listening to your employee’s concerns — don’t downplay them, and don’t imply that things will be the same as they were before. Rather, empathize with their worries and then consult with your designer or facility manager and see if there are any practical steps you can take to address them.

Is your company undergoing tenant improvements or moving? Can’t decide if an open office concept is suitable for your employees?

Contact us for a complimentary consultation.