Don’t Sacrifice Focus for Collaboration
In the last two decades, corporate leaders hoped to increase collaboration and creativity in the corporate environment with an open floorplan. Walls came down, cubicles died, and sunlight/views became more accessible. The stuffy workplace was replaced with a trendy and chic space that had less individual spaces and more room for teamwork.
When we gained all that collaboration and more fluent working relationships, did we really lose anything important? Office workers are quick to tell you that it’s privacy and focus.
The Fishbowl Effect
Well-meaning open floorplans do increase interaction between colleagues, but it might be too much interaction. Employees start to feel like they are in a fishbowl and it gets distracting. It’s sent workers on a search for a little time and space to call their own. Retrofit Magazine cited a 2012 New York Times article that said office workers have found a myriad of ways to take privacy back from stacking books and papers to seeking corners cut off from everyone else so they can focus on the work. They cut out the noise with headphones and put up the busy status on email and IM as the new universal signal for “do not disturb.”
Retrofit reported that a UC Irvine researcher, Gloria Mark, found that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes on average and that it takes 23 minutes to get back on track. The Gallup 2013 “State of the Workplace Report” showed that this disengagement and distraction may cost the U.S. more than $450 billion.
Rethinking Office Design
So now you’re worried about the money you’ve spent achieving that collaborative open floorplan and what to do about it now that your workers want their privacy back? The open floorplan is not a failure on the whole, but you may be able to increase productivity by striking a bargain between collaborative and private spaces in the office.
Consider Your Specific Needs
Thinking about the actual work done in the office is important to determining the right floorplan. If there is a large amount of collaboration with large groups, then an open area with plenty of seating and table space is important.
If you see more small-group collaboration, smaller enclosed areas for collaboration may be better suited. If staff spend a great deal of time working individually, making calls, or meeting with clients; then more individualized spaces may be best.
Tailor your space to the work being done. Sometimes simple fixes like a glass wall or architectural divider are all it takes to make the office more private. Invest where it counts for your particular needs.
Install Private Booths
These small rooms accommodate one to three people and give the privacy needed for work to get done efficiently. They are also great for decreasing disturbance due to phone calls. Some workers who do a lot of individual work may even decide to stay in the booth for most of the day.
Create Quiet Zones
Like the quiet floor of the library, workplace quiet zones provide a place for people to go where they know they can get some serious work done without being disturbed. This is a space where it must be understood that no noise is allowed. No talking, no cell phones, no crunching on raw carrots.
Provide a Neutral Space
As more corporations allow workers to telecommute some of the time, you might consider a space that lands somewhere between work and home for ultimate engagement. This space is accessible from the regular office environment but feels more like a coffee shop or café.
Encourage a Culture of Engagement
It’s one thing to make design changes, but a completely different thing to get your people to use them. If they feel that embracing the out-of-the-ordinary office space is taboo, they won’t use them. Foster a culture of permission so they will use the physical spaces you provide.
Find a New Balance in the Office Space
The latest office designs respect the need for collaboration, as well as privacy. No matter what the current situation of your office, use these simple fixes to provide everything your office needs for ultimate productivity and engagement.