Some people love open offices, others sincerely hate it. Created to suit a modern business, an open plan requires some effort put by its management so it could play its role. Let-it-go-with-a-flow attitude doesn’t work in this case unless you want a noisy office full of grumpy employees. Yet, such an architectural decision can be effective if you know what you’re doing and fulfill it properly.
The idea itself was created by a visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906 when he designed the Larkin Administration Building in New York. Among other innovations, like air conditioning and built-in desk furniture, the iconic workspace was open and wall-less. It kicked off one of the biggest forces in American architecture.
Today open spaces are widely adopted in Northern America and Western Europe and both are loved by traditional corporations and modern startup companies. Even despite more and more public opinions criticizing the phenomenon, it’s still trending globally. Since our Kaunas site is designed as an open-plan office, we decided to discuss perks and tricks on how to deal with challenges that occur when working in such a model.
Setting Clear Rules
Distractions, distractions… It’s the first, and probably the main, obstacle that comes to mind when considering an open workspace option. Well, first of all, we need to realize that besides economical reasons for choosing such a model, it’s a cultural decision. To increase the collaboration among staff, the open plan calls for the contribution of everyone working there. And so the success is more an aspiration than an expectation.
Remember how libraries work. Every day tens or hundreds of peeps attend, work and study quietly in their premises. Libraries are literally open-plan offices. So how does this manner function there but fail at work? Because we all know the rules by heart. Library rules signify keeping your voice down, not distracting one another and respecting different work styles of your colleagues.
Naturally, sharing space can inevitably create tension among individuals, but setting office etiquette can save a healthy work environment. It’s all about explaining to people that smelly food or loud conversations can be distracting, that messy desks or ignoring signals of unavailability to interact don’t help. Establish some ground rules and you’ll do just fine.
Giving the Tools
Identifying what exactly helps your peeps to focus is super important. Obviously, noise-canceling headphones are the most popular tool. They are certainly essential for dealing with distractions and tuning out the noise. However, such headphones are not always an answer. They don’t stop nearby folks from talking loud (at least not completely). So without establishing the common levels of noise, some star wars situations now and then can come up. Noise-canceling headphones should be an option, not a necessity.
There are numerous examples of how creative people make and use colorful flags that help in notifying others of their availability to interact. And it’s really impressive. However, if you’re more of a techie, you might love some fascinating modern solutions and the gadgets invented for productivity: Luxafor or Saent have indicating lights to signal to your co-workers if you’re in a mood to chat or more in a “stay away” mode. What a time to be alive!
It’s ok to chat but if the conversation intensifies, just get a room. Literally.
Be it an open plan or closed offices, they almost all by rule include conference rooms. Only in open workspaces, these function as alternative quiet spots for private conversations or an hour of complete silence and isolation without distractions.
In some cases, even meeting rooms don’t help. It’s quite common that in bigger companies these are fully booked most of the time. So what should one do when there’s a need for a personal call and some privacy? Over the last few years, phone booths have come to light all over the globe. This simple yet fine solution completely exploded in the market and loads of offices or train/bus stations quickly adopted it. And Tesonet is no exception. For instance, at our Kaunas office, we have several quiet spaces for calls or working with no distractions, so when deadlines get closer, these are the magical places to enjoy solitude. So such soundproof one-person pods can be a grand upgrade to your open-plan office.
Stronger Company Culture
Even one may debate if open-plan offices are productivity killers or winners, the main argument is still the improvement of greater engagement and communication among co-workers. Knowledge sharing and constant exchange of know-hows dramatically increase employees’ success, as of individuals and a team.
Our Kaunas office has awesome common spaces, like a dining room or game room, which are especially useful when peeps just want to have short breaks and or mind their work non-related business. Since teams are not severely segregated, they can easily catch up on the overall process.
Funny but it’s true that all the news and rumors circulate rapidly in open offices. And while this sounds like an episode of “Gossip Girl”, sometimes it might be beneficial. Quite often people delay or avoid reporting complaints directly and rather grumble and mumble to their closest team members about their worries. Accidentally hearing such claims can be significantly important and, at least, speed up the reaction to the problem.
Here at Tesonet, we’ve always cared about our squad having the best and successful environment that boosts productivity. And we think we did a pretty good job with that.