The open office space arrangement is becoming more and more popular as companies work to find cost effective ways to house their staff. This is particularly true with a large workforce that resides within a limited work area. While this set up may be attractive to the decision makers, it can be a veritable nightmare for some employees, particularly those who are more introverted by nature. The noise, foot traffic, and frequent distractions can have a negative impact on productivity and employee morale if it isn’t managed well.

When it works, though, an open office space can help establish a company culture of collaboration and teamwork while promoting the health and wellbeing of the employees. This is what draws top talent to an organization and it is what keeps them there. Innovation and creativity is a powerful tool but it may take some getting used to for many employees. By putting certain accommodations in place you can make the transition easier while showing how favorable this type of office design can be.

The Noisy Workspace
One of the most common complaints in an office setting is noise, specifically overheard conversations. A study conducted by Herman Miller in 2002 revealed that this was the most significant complaint that office workers had. Most people can tune out most noises but conversations, or intelligible human speech, are almost impossible for most people to ignore. Over the years there have been various forms of sound masking, most notably a system that is installed in the ceiling. This is cost prohibitive, though, for many smaller companies, so alternatives were necessary. There are companies that use sound masking devices that attach to furniture or to tall poles that are strategically placed throughout the area. This cuts down on the noise level significantly.

Layout
A panel based open plan can offer employees some privacy and insulation against noise. With this type of arrangement, two to four employees may share a cubicle area. In some cases, each employee may have his or her own cubicle area. This can reduce the interruptions and distractions somewhat, but other measures should be put in place as well.

Foot Traffic and Conversations
Routing foot traffic around the work area as opposed to through it can help with distractions and noise. There will, of course, be times when employees will need to walk through the work area, but doing so unnecessarily should be discouraged. Likewise, it should be stressed that employees should be aware and respectful of their coworkers. Speaking quietly to each other as opposed to calling out across the work area to communicate should be encouraged. Making conference rooms available for lengthy or involved conversations is another option.

Conference Rooms
Many companies that have moved to an open office space make conference rooms available to employees. They can reserve the room when they need a quiet place to work or meet with their team members to discuss a project. A Forbes article by Barbara T. Armstrong discusses effective ways to encourage productivity and minimize distractions in an open office plan, including the use of conference rooms.

Telework and Flex Schedules
Allowing employees to telework is a great complement to an open office plan. Giving them one day or more to work at home can combat the stress that can be created by this type of office layout. Flex schedules and office sharing are other ways to effectively manage this office environment as well as effectively utilize the available space to house all of the employees.

Accommodations Ease the Way
Adjusting to an open office space can be a challenge at first, but when effectively managed it can be a great boon for the company as well as the staff. Any work relationship requires some give and take. This is no different. Management should assess the staff and find creative ways to aid them in adapting and thriving in this type of environment. The uses of headphones, breaks, and quiet rooms have been proven effective, but they are in no way the only answers. Contact Hyperspace today to get started creating the best office space for your company.

Topics: Office Space

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