Learning & Development

The Future of Open Floor Plans: Achieving Flexibility Without Employee Backlash

Cubicles and closed-off spaces in workplaces are outdated. Today, many businesses prefer open floor plans over private work zones. While open spaces are great for collaboration, they also have some drawbacks.

How can you enhance the flexibility of open floor plans, boost employee well-being, and mitigate the drawbacks? Here are some ideas to consider.

RTO open floor plan

The Downsides of Purely Open Layouts

Noise, distractions, lack of privacy, and low personalization are the common disadvantages of having an open office space. The noise level will rise when several teams and multiple employees are on the same floor. Since no doors exist to shut and concentrate, distractions are unavoidable, significantly disrupting employee productivity. 

Open floors also lack privacy. While communication is a big plus of such a concept, sometimes privacy cannot be compromised. For example, talking to a guest, discussing confidential topics, and focusing on tasks requiring high concentration.

In an open floor plan, employees have a low scope of personalization. Since they need to work in a standard office environment, they cannot customize their surroundings, which often affects their mood and well-being. 

Fortunately, you can upgrade your standard open office to achieve a hybrid balance. Let’s learn more about how you can do this. 

Achieving a Hybrid Balance

Here are a few things you can do to make your open floor plan more flexible for everyone: 

  • Create zoned areas;
  • Offer space variation to employees; and 
  • Take measures to reduce noise.

You can create zoned areas without hampering open communication, even within an open floor plan. For example, build meeting rooms or private spaces that employees can use occasionally when privacy is of utmost importance. 

Consider installing phone booths that allow employees to make calls without distracting others. Since phone booths take less space, they fit quite effortlessly in open spaces. Additionally, there should be a minimum of 10 feet of space between employees’ working areas to protect their privacy. 

By space variation, we mean a workspace arrangement that changes periodically. For example, move employees as needed so they can focus on their work. When collaboration is necessary, move them to an open space. On the other hand, consider temporarily moving the employees to a private area when they need more concentration. 

You can also install sound-masking speakers, acoustical clouds on the ceiling, and floor carpets for noise reduction. You might also allow employees to use headphones and “Do Not Disturb” signs on their desks. 

Empowering Personal Customization

Storage and wall spaces are great ways to allow employees to add their personal touch. You can ask employees to participate in office decorations, lighting, and temperature adjustments. However, the employees should also have some control over their work environment. 

You should conduct surveys to learn more about their options and needs. Moreover, nurture an office culture where employees are willing to adapt to changes. However, ensure you keep staff needs first while designing the workplace, eventually leading to higher satisfaction and productivity. 

Open floor plans have benefits like collaboration, creativity, and a sense of community. However, flexibility is only possible by focusing on employee well-being and satisfaction.

Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a trophy store and dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, athletic awards, and crystal trophies.

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