Lately, it seems like the open office can’t catch a break. Switching from cubicles and offices in favor of sitting out on the floor with the team has gathered its share of criticisms that range from being too noisy to a lack of privacy and the idea that colleagues are secretly judging one another if someone does too much or too little of anything, be it focusing on their work or making frequent trips to the bathroom. There’s even an argument for the toll that an open-office takes on employee health, both mental and physical.
However, despite those that declare the open-office is a trap, I have found this style to be a fit for my team as well as myself. If you’re on the fence as to whether you’d like to try it with your own company, here are the benefits that I have experienced firsthand out on the open floor that bosses and employees can enjoy.
You’re much more aware of what’s going on.
My team and I used to work out of a smaller building where I had my own office. While I employed an open door policy in that room, I worked down a hallway that was separate from the team and I wasn’t happy about it.
We moved to a new building in September 2016 that allowed for a more spacious open-office arrangement. This new building had separate smaller offices of its own, but this time I wasn’t going to tuck myself away in one of them. I moved my desk out on the floor to be with everyone else and loved it.
Permanently moving out onto the floor made me much more aware of what’s going on than I was when I was burrowed away elsewhere. I make it a point to make the rounds every morning to each desk station and visit everyone. I say hello, see how they’re doing, and get a glimpse at what’s on their agenda for the day. Being out on the floor has also made me feel more approachable to the team too. I’m confident in knowing that we’re all on the same page together — and if there are any questions, my desk is only a few steps away to reach out to for answers.
It’s easier to communicate and collaborate.
When you’re out on the floor, you can practically turn around and engage your coworkers in conversations that address your needs and may even be unplanned, like a quick brainstorming session. This is a little harder to do when you’re alone in an office. Never knowing exactly what everyone’s schedules are like, you might have to email to schedule in a meeting, wait to figure out what works best for everyone and then meet up.
Open floor plan layouts offer plenty of opportunities to collaborate together as a team spontaneously. The thought process here is that when these collaborations happen, employees become much more creative and productive. However, all this conversation can become noisy fast which is often the chief complaint of working in an open-office space.
What can you do to signal that you need to focus and cut out distractions? For many, including me, this means grabbing a pair of headphones and putting on some music to keep interruptions at bay when concentrating on an important task. Encourage your team to do the same as needed and signal fellow employees that you’ll be available via email, or a messenger like Slack, if they need to reach you.
There’s greater synergy in the room.
The next time the room in an open-office feels too noisy to you, listen and take in the sounds and conversations taking place. While they’re likely to be work-related, they’re probably peppered with laughter with everyone speaking in a relaxed tone. There’s a synergy to be found here and it shows.
Ultimately, the one thing that can make or break an open-floor office isn’t the type of lighting in the room, whether it’s too cold or hot, or the amount of noise in it. It’s your team. If you have hired individuals that work well together and recognize them for their hard work, then it won’t matter whether they’re working out of an office, cubicle, or out in the open with everyone else. You’ll have a cohesive team that can communicate comfortably with one another whether or not there are any barriers. For bosses and employees alike, this makes it easy to adapt to a new floor plan, like an open-office, and embrace the idea of how much it can change your overall perspective and energy in the workplace.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Iakov Filimonov