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How To Decide If An Open Floor Plan Is Right For Your Business

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

As work requirements have changed, business spaces have changed. Recently, open floor plans have become a popular feature as businesses look to modernize and encourage collaboration in their teams. Indeed, open floor plans can have many benefits, such as boosting face-to-face interaction, improving group awareness and minimizing feelings of isolation.

However, an open layout does not necessarily work well for every business. Factors such as noise level, privacy and staff personalities need to be taken into consideration before committing to changing an office floor plan. Below, 13 members of Forbes Coaches Council relate important details to consider when deciding whether to open—or segment—your office layout.

1. Determine If Employees Are Doing ‘Work Arounds’

If the noise level or other distractions in the open floor plan mean that employees work remotely more often simply to be able to concentrate and get work done, you have to ask if the trendy workspace decision is backfiring. At the end of the day, the workspace exists to assist workers in keeping a business viable. That should be your guiding principle. - Rebecca Lea Ray, The Conference Board

2. Get Feedback From Your Team

An open floor plan, designed to modernize and encourage collaboration, is one of the popular organizational changes today. However, with every change there are certain responsibilities on leaders, such as ensuring the proposed change amplifies their culture and enhances and improves the employees’ productivity level. A good way to confirm that is to model the change for the employees and solicit feedback. - Dr. Flo Falayi, Hybrid Leaders, Inc.

3. Find Out Who Is On Your Team

The effectiveness of an open workspace depends on the personality makeup of the team members. Some people are most energized and productive when talking things through and interacting with others. However, some people are most productive when they can concentrate alone, in silence. Personality assessment can help measure how effective an open, more collaborative workspace might be for your team. - Melanie Gallo, Ph.D., Melanie C Gallo Coaching & Consulting

4. Consider A Hybrid Solution

Count the percentage of people working from home to be more productive and the number wearing headphones to block sound out. The ideal spaces are a mix of offices and open floors to foster a great culture, socially responsible teams and close camaraderie. The moment the office “space” becomes a hindrance due to concentration, productivity or sound issues, you lose your culture—and people. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

5. Evaluate The Hidden Cost Of Stress

Open floor plans let companies cram more people next to each other in expensive urban office spaces. From a mental health standpoint, settings like this fail to offer the critical element of personal space, key to a psychologically safe workplace. You need to examine the hidden costs like stress, time off work due to stress and turnover. Is the open office really worth it, long term? - Drew Aversa, MBA & RYT, Aversa Strategies

6. Assess The Importance Of Phone Conversations

If connecting with customers, partners or colleagues via phone is linked to business results, stay away from open floor plans. Most of us want some reasonable privacy for our phone calls. Nobody wants to be a disruptive loud mouth on a phone call in an otherwise quiet space. Nobody wants to feel others are eavesdropping. Take away phone call privacy and watch your connection-linked key performance indicators crater. - Stacey Staaterman, Stacey Staaterman Coaching & Consulting

7. Study The Data And Experiment

Much like most decisions in business, the physical layout of an office should not be subjective. It should be based on historical industry data and available case studies combined with experimentation and data analysis. The end goal of creating a more physically inviting space for collaboration and productivity purposes should be the result of a scientific examination and repeatable results. - Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

8. Consider Both Work Requirements And Personality Types

If employees are primarily involved in creative work or in work that requires deep thought, an open floor plan can be highly distracting. Also, introverts, who are often some of our best problem solvers, don’t function as well with constant pressure to interact with others. An open floor plan can work well when the work requires that people collaborate on a regular basis. - Beth Kuhel, Get Hired, LLC

9. Hold A ‘Work Quietly At Your Desk’ Day

Remember your teacher imploring you to “work quietly at your desk”? Well, if your open floor plan is up for redesign or just a small tweak, run a day where every team member on the floor is only allowed to work quietly at their desk. Do a short debrief at the end of the day for what worked better that day and what could use improvement. Rinse and repeat periodically and then implement changes. - John Hittler, Evoking Genius

10. Hold An Anonymous Poll

Recent studies have debunked theories about open floor plans improving collaboration and productivity. Before making a significant change that will impact your team’s environment, the easiest way to determine if an open floor plan will work is to ask your team members, preferably through an anonymous poll. Avoid getting caught up in the “cool” factor and find out what your team actually prefers. - Tonya Echols, Vigere

11. Determine Your Leadership Style

Open floor plans may invite more communication than a row of opaquely walled offices, but if your work space begins to look like a boutique coffee shop it may begin to hinder productivity. Your leadership style determines which layouts work best. Commanding and transactional leaders may opt for more traditional layouts, while visionary and laissez-faire leaders may feel an open plan suits them. - Erik Fredrickson, Erik Fredrickson Coaching

12. Consider Your Clients’ Need For Privacy

An open pit enables you to freely communicate and share information. But it’s not ideal for firms that require closed spaces for private conversations. Professional services companies like law firms, financial services and private wealth management require confidential, closed-door settings that put the client at ease and where information doesn’t get out. Consider your clients’ need for privacy. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

13. Be Honest About The True Aim

Lots of organizations say they want an open floor plan to promote collaboration and idea sharing, but as the employees transition, the senior execs retain their offices. That’s a telltale sign that the true driver is “cheap-o” economics: The more rank-and-file people you can smoosh into an open floor workspace, the lower the cost per square foot of office space. Be honest about the true aim. - Bill Treasurer, Giant Leap Consulting

Article: ©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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