Trends in office layouts have evolved drastically, and have roughly followed the evolving understanding of how people work best.
Private offices with closed doors like in “Mad Men” were deemed too isolating. Open work areas were voted too distracting. Cubicles were called depressing. Now open office plans and “hoteling” offices are the newest trends being tested.
What is right for your organization? The answer may depend on three factors: the type of work being done, the preferences of your team, and your budget/space.
Open Office Floor Plans
You may have seen the colorful, playground-esque open spaces of Silicon Valley companies, designed to encourage inspiration, collaboration, and moving about the campus. These spaces often boast comfortable seating areas for brainstorming and discussion, and even the occasional “nap pod” so workers can get a little shut-eye to bring their full focus back to their work. The benefits to open plans are an efficient use of space, flexibility in layout, camaraderie, and the egalitarian sense you get when your supervisor is across the table from you.
But is this productive for your team? A University of Sydney study found that employees working in open offices are not always fans of the noise and lack of privacy. “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy.”
Minimizing distractions becomes difficult when there are no walls—even those grey cubicle walls—to separate you from your co-worker. As one ad agency employee stated, “My personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults.”
The challenge becomes how to get the best of both worlds: how to allow for free-flowing conversations and brainstorming using open spaces while offering privacy and quiet spaces for focused work. Office designers answer this with solutions such as reservable focus rooms where one can shut the door and buckle down, or a mix of tables for individual work and conversation areas for collaboration.
Open office layouts can include groups of desks facing toward each other, a line of desks/tables looking out windows, or a mix of tables with docking stations and lounging areas, where mobile workers can decide where to camp out with their laptops and coffees for the day.
These decisions should consider your industry and employees’ needs. If your industry requires individual focus or private conversations with clients or customers, increased privacy may be the way to productivity and employee satisfaction. If, on the other hand, you’re a social media giant trying to come up with the next best feature, brainstorming among a jungle of potted plants might be your route.
For organizations that have a quarter or more of their workforce out of the office on any given day—either working remotely, traveling, or on a day off—hoteling can save money. The idea is that each employee reserves a workspace for that day or that week instead of returning to the same cubicle or office every day. Make your reservation, bring in your laptop, and leave your personal effects at home. This makes for a flexible workspace for employers, more mixing among employees who wouldn’t normally sit near each other, and assumes a standard for working remotely some of the time.
The downfalls of this approach are that employees may not appreciate having to reserve their spot, hauling their work back and forth each day, being susceptible to the germs of other people’s workstations, and forgoing those cute family photos or personal effects of their personal lives.
Just as the office layout has evolved from Don Draper-esque corner offices to the cubes of Office Space, many companies are adopting a hybrid of all of the above. Now that workers are no longer tied to a clunky desktop computer, they can often perform their jobs wherever their laptop or tablet takes them. A mix of private rooms, lounging areas, and team tabletops might be the next trend in office layouts.
From pods to cubes to soundproof booths, for professional guidance on your next office layout project, contact Strack companies.