There was a lot of interest in the concept of open offices at the Worldcom Americas Meeting earlier this month. Open offices can offer a significant cost saving for employers, but they can also dramatically increase employee stress and decrease productivity. As open office dwellers ourselves, we’d like to share a few suggestions for those who may be considering knocking down the walls:
- Consider how much time team members spend on the phone. Lack of privacy makes client conversations more difficult, and constant exposure to other people’s phone conversations creates disruptions for those who aren’t part of the discussion.
- Separate meeting spaces from workspaces. Sound carries in an open office. Plan ahead to make sure a meeting in one part of the office won’t create so much noise that it takes over the entire space.
- Give employees a way to control how accessible they are. There’s a fine line between “spontaneous collaboration” and “constant interruption.” You might be able to ignore someone who stops at your office door in a traditional office, but that’s harder to do when they’re staring at you from the other side of a table. Let employees create visual cues that let others know when they’re not available, and respect their need for some uninterrupted time.
- Respect how employees need to work. Chances are you have account managers who spend a lot of time on the phone, senior staff who regularly meet with clients and team members, and writers, analysts or developers who need blocks of uninterrupted time to produce work. Creating a space that works for everyone may mean grouping employees together by work style rather than client team.
- Ask your employees for their input before you draw up plans. Their insight can help you determine the best use for your space and minimize frustration and stress in the long run.
Author: Pam Long[Google+]