When it comes to office buildings in early 2020, the industry seems to want to talk about two things: coronavirus and closing up open floor plans. With research pointing to open floor plans being correlated with lower employee satisfaction, higher absenteeism, and lower levels of productive collaboration, it's understandable that people are looking to close up open floor plans.
You Might Be Fine!
Open floor plan offices are not created equally, and yours might be perfect just the way it is. Ask yourself these questions:
Do people have defined spaces?
Can people get true privacy (both from sight and sound) if they need it?
Do you offer spaces that suit people's needs?
If your answer to all three is yes, you might have found the perfect balance.
You can confirm this by taking a walk around your office. Do you see a lot of people who are working hard... and wearing headphones? If so, it can be an indicator that people are using those headphones to control background noise and interruptions and that your space is too open. Is there a culture in your office of people staying away from the office to "get work done?" (if people won't tell you, see who is around when they have big projects due... if they're gone, it's a good indicator!) If neither of these behaviors are common in your office, then you are probably also fine. On the other hand, if you see headphones and busy people staying away, keep reading.
Furniture Goes A Long Way
Office furniture has come a long way from just offering chairs, desks, and cloth-covered cubicle walls. One easy fix for your space is to add a few self-contained phone booths. Phone booth spaces provide a place for people to take calls or duck out of the office without taking up a big chunk of space. They're also usually small enough that your employees won't camp out in them.
Modular walls can go even further, creating the equivalent of private offices or conference rooms in the middle of your open floor plan space. These types of spaces have two benefits. They create enclosed areas, which helps to solve the challenges inherent in an open floor plan. Their presence also breaks up the open area, making even those wide open spaces feel a little bit more cozy, comfortable and private. Mixing solid walls with glass can help you strike the right balance of openness and closed areas, as well.
You Can Build...
If you really want to change your office's configuration, the construction route is usually the least expensive over the long run. Bear in mind that you can do new tenant improvements gradually, letting you spread out the cost and the interruption to your operations. In addition, talk to your landlord to see if he or she will help with the cost, potentially in exchange for you signing an extended lease.
... Or Move
Once you make the decision to do tenant improvement work to close up your open office, moving to a new space may become your best option. Moving potentially solves two problems at once. First, it lets you have all of your construction done all at once since you don't have to worry about interrupting the flow of your current office. Second, you might find that a new landlord will offer significant tenant improvement allowances to help defray the cost of construction.
Whatever you decide, remember that the problems with open office configurations don't necessarily mean a return to a completely closed configuration where everyone has their own private spaces. Instead, the solution falls in the middle where you blend open, closed, and partially closed spaces to create an environment where everyone can work productively and happily while keeping occupancy costs under control.
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