Having an office was once an illustrious and coveted perk for some employees. The corner office was strived for, as it was a position of power. What was once a necessity for many businesses has become less popular among millennials. It seems that an enclosed office is becoming a thing of the past.
So, why I don't need an office? The reasons that an office is not necessary to include open lines of communication, better employee health, and increased collaboration.
There are arguments against open office space, but it is a concept that doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. Most of the younger generation in the workforce seems to prefer it. Like with anything, open office space has its negatives as well. Exploring both sides of it may explain why the option is so popular.
As a generation that enjoys communicating via text, phone, or email, getting that face to face interaction is something that many in the earlier years of their career actually enjoy. More opportunity for face to face communication allows for the better overall business. Why? It boosts productivity levels, builds relationships, and involves body language.
Productivity can be hindered with communication via email because of the amount of time it takes. It takes a lot more time to carry on a conversation on a screen than it does making a quick announcement in an open office space and promptly answering questions. Quick and prompt are the key words here - especially when business is fast-paced.
It is also difficult to convey emotion through words on a screen, so it helps to avoid any potential misunderstandings. Additionally, it is a challenge to be sure that employees are paying attention to their emails and on the lookout for urgent messages. If they are busy with another task, checking their email is not usually at the top of their list. Even if phone calls were used for important matters, it makes relationship building more difficult.
Building relationships are key in business. While networking with clients or potential clients is the goal for many businesses, it is important to have relationships of trust with coworkers as well. When a team of people has trust, they develop a sense of belonging that pushes them to perform better for each other. The team, and company is better supported by a core of trusted employees.
Those trusted employees are often the ones that have been mentored by more advanced people, allowing the future of the company to look bright. By tearing down the office walls physically, a company shows that they are tearing down walls between the higher-ups and the employees under them. It makes management feel more approachable, meaning relationships and mentorships between management and lower level employees will greatly improve. Without the rising stars aiming for senior management in the future, a company may find itself lacking.
Lacking from virtual communication, which is something encouraged with individual offices, is body language. There is something about body language that makes a conversation something entirely different. It makes employees more perceptive when they practice reading body language. That perception helps if there is a need to speak with a client face to face. Those social cues are not always practiced outside of work, and the need for understanding body language is important in business.
Body language can show the urgency of a situation that an email might miss. It can show sincerity. Praise for a job well done is often just words on a screen. With open office space, an employee might see how much it is meant. Sincerity in appreciation can inspire continued quality work or even better work.
Work is improved overall when communication is face to face. Having a facility where offices don't exist increases the opportunities for such interaction. The lack of walls, doors, and even cubicles has inspired employees to turn to their neighbors for better productivity, relationships, and clear body language.
When the walls of an office are torn down, an employee has space to move around. This fact has an impact on physical activity, stress levels, and even depression or anxiety. Exploring the benefits of employee health on a company's overall success will define a great reason for no offices.
Allowing employees the space to get their daily steps in is a benefit to businesses for a couple of reasons. Firstly, an active employee is an energetic one. Sitting in an enclosed office or a cubicle for hours on end proves to be exhausting. Having the space to move around more and feeling the freedom to do so will give companies more productive employees.
The second reason physical activity in the workplace benefits the business is that it will ultimately mean more work. Facts show it could mean four more days of work per year. An obese employee is one that, on average, takes 4 more sick days per year than that of an employee with a recommended weight.
When employees are provided the freedom to move around, stress levels are known to decrease. A stressed person can have any multitude of health problems, from headaches to insomnia to heart attacks. It seems pretty obvious the problems this would cause an employer: missed work days, lackluster work, and even possible loss of a seasoned employee.
Although some people see stress as a way to drive performance, it is clear that it is not always a good motivator. When an employer has provided a wide open space with no offices, they have a number of ways to relieve stress available to them. The increased mobility can help to provide a better quality of sleep at night. The level of social interaction gives feelings of inclusion. It also combats depression.
Depression and anxiety can be tough battles. There are ways, however, that an open office floor plan can help to prevent it or even improve an employee’s outlook. Many of these ways have already been discussed: exercise or physical activity, social interaction, and sleep. One of the biggest that hasn't been brought up yet is sunlight.
Sunlight is not usually seen or felt by employees in a cubicle. Even private offices can have limited sunlight, depending on the location. A decrease in sunlight means a decrease in serotonin, a natural mood enhancer that also makes people more focused. That explanation alone should depict why sunlight is important in the workplace. There are even more benefits of sunlight that would give an employer an advantage.
Proper exposure to sunlight allows individuals to get better sleep at night. It improves numerous conditions and even acts as a cancer repellent of sorts. Since well rested, healthy employees are also more productive employees; sunlight is an imperative factor in an office setting.
Employee health is a factor that should sway most employers towards the idea of no enclosed offices. The benefits of a healthy employee outweigh many possible disadvantages that may arise.
The majority of business models rely on good teamwork and collaboration in order to succeed. How collaboration exists varies from company to company. An open office layout allows for all types of collaboration, quick turnaround, and happier clients.
Working as a team can mean having any number of common goals. With an open office, a team might be seated around the same table, allowing for a varied level of skills, thoughts, and ideas, and discussion. The possibilities of communication between team members are endless. They might have the ability to quickly delegate tasks, inspire competition, or openly brainstorm.
The quick actions of a close seated team lead to faster turnaround on projects. Information is easier to share and easier to access, meaning time is saved quite regularly. With the involvement of various people, problems are solved more efficiently. All aspects of collaboration in an open space allow for a quickness that was previously impossible.
The fast service provided to clients due to the lack of office space is bound to impress and please them, causing repeat customers. A satisfied customer often means happy employees, and those employees will continue to put their collaboration in the open space to work.
Collaboration often means higher levels of creativity. By bouncing ideas off one another, a team might find that the result is a better result. This concept is better performed when your team is near. Sometimes the need to travel to another office to share an idea or sending that idea in a text can cause issues. Anything can happen between employee 1’s office and employee 2’s office - forgetfulness and distraction are the first that come to mind. Alternately, a text can be misconstrued, incomplete, or take too long.
Once the benefits of collaboration in an open space are understood, it can be difficult to see why there might be some negative thoughts on the concept. However, there have been some noted, and some studies that have shown that a business with no offices may not be all good.
Despite the amazing potential that open office spaces have, recent studies show that they haven't quite figured out the best way to implement these ideas yet. The floor plan has been a bit of a disaster for some companies. There are numerous questions raised from companies that struggled with figuring out how to make it work - but these questions have answers!
One of the first thoughts from a negative perspective was: what about introverts? A highly interactive, communicative space might cause an introvert some anxiety. Since decreasing anxiety was listed as one of the benefits of an open office space, it is not one of the qualities that should be strived for. Luckily, there is a solution for introverts!
Introverts may want to look into working remotely. The majority of companies that are progressive enough to have an open floor plan will probably have the ability to have employees work from home. In some cases, a remote employee would need to come to the office occasionally, but remote work is an option most are willing to consider. This may not be an option for all introverts, so there are others.
Another consideration is to start small. Rather than jumping right into a large open office, there are companies that have a space in which just a handful or fewer employees share an open area. This would allow an introvert the experience of working with a small team in a shared space.
A lack of an office would almost guarantee one thing: distractions. There are ways in which distractions can be combated. Headphones with instrumental music help with focus. Even playing instrumental music over the whole space helps with overall concentration.
Concentration can also be improved with a few isolation rooms. An isolation room is a small space in which employees can work temporarily if they find themselves unable to focus. Some companies utilize sign up sheets; others have a first come first serve basis. Either way, it's important for employees to understand the isolation rooms are just for that purpose and the people inside should not be disturbed.
A do not disturb sign is another way to allow focus. Providing employees with a simple way for coworkers to avoid interruption can increase concentration. There could also be defined times in which employees are expected to work on their own and have a quiet time - if elementary school students can do it, people in the workforce should be able to accomplish this.
Additionally, cutting down on noise levels can improve focus. This can be done with a simple layout adjustment. Large white boards strategically placed can decrease noise traveling from one side of the room to the other.
With so much talk in one area, privacy and security can be a concern. Conference rooms and phone booths are the solutions to this. If an employee is working on a confidential or sensitive project, it may require some phone conversations or meetings that are not meant for other ears. By providing the enclosed space for purposes such as these allows for a greater sense of privacy.
The lack of privacy allows for more than just talk to travel. Germs can be a real concern at times since one person getting sick can mean the entire office is getting sick. Having a clean space is the best way to battle this. Provide hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and disinfectants to promote a more germ-free environment.
Like with any office space, an open floor plan that has its challenges. However, each challenge has a way to beat it. Some challenges have multiple ways. It may take some getting used to, and the concept certainly isn't for every business type, but open office layouts may be the way of the future. The benefits have the ability to outweigh the disadvantages if those disadvantages are handled properly.
While recent studies show that some companies are struggling to find the right mix of things, it is only a matter of time before true success is found with this concept. With the right business model and the right employees, an open office can make a company thrive. That's why I don't need an office.
Is changing out my office chair for an exercise ball an effective way to increase productivity? While exercise ball sitting at work is a fun concept, studies prove that most people are unable to sit properly on the ball, tucking their feet under them and defeating the purpose of being more active while sitting. The lack of movement means no significant difference in productivity.
Is collaboration stunted by working remotely? It can be more difficult to collaborate with coworkers in a different time zone, especially since the face to face communication is removed. However, there are numerous ways to combat this issue.
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