Is an open office right for your business?
Community. Some companies embrace a traditional corporate hierarchy, where the higher-ups are separated from their subordinates. Instead, we encourage a sense of community, where everyone can contribute equally to the success of the business, and our open office has helped us maintain this element of our company culture. Team leaders sit side-by-side with team members at their workstations, instead of locking themselves away in a corner office. This also makes our employees feel more comfortable approaching their managers for help or sharing suggestions for improvement.
Potential problem areas
Of course there were some potential challenges we had to consider when building our open office. A few of these included:
Noise. When everyone shares the same space, noise can be an obvious concern. Since our sales department is on the phone most of the day, we were worried their conversations might be distracting for other departments. So we made sure to find a space with high ceilings to dampen the noise traveling across the room. We also provide our employees with fancy headphones and noise-canceling microphones to mitigate any background noise issues that might interfere with their work. And, of course, if you’re worried about too much noise, make sure you’re not packing too many people into your office space. Allow enough room between teams and people that they can still hear themselves think.
Food. Smelly food wasn’t a problem we’d even considered in our previous office. But in our new, open space, we quickly learned that if one person brings in greasy or strong-smelling food, the whole office will soon be enjoying it (or not!). So, out of common courtesy, we created the “no stinky food” rule: if you have to eat something smelly, take it outside. We also have a fast-food ban.
Messy desks. An open office layout keeps employees accountable for maintaining clean desks. They can’t hide towering paperwork or a mountain of empty Starbucks cups behind cubicle walls. Sharing space also keeps the number of desktop items each person can have limited to the necessities. We’ve tried our best to be a paperless office, too, which helps cut down on clutter.
Personal space. Privacy is an obvious concern when it comes to open space. I didn’t want employees to feel like they were always being watched. We give each team member eight feet of room at their desk to make sure they still have some personal space, and we also stagger the computer monitors so they’re not looking right at the person across from them.
Find what fits your culture
While there are many benefits to an open floor plan, it isn’t a good fit for every company. If you manage a law practice or financial consulting firm, for example, an open office probably isn’t a good place to deal with confidential client information.