You know you’re making an impact on people’s lives when there’s a parody about your field of work on McSweeny’s.

Many good points were brought up in that article. Has the Open Floor Plan Office been over done, and is it really effective?

The Pros

Open Floor Plans have been revolutionary in both good and bad ways. The pros are:

  • In most situations, it allows more people to occupy a space.
  • It was revolutionary when it was first instituted because no one before had done anything similar.
  • It encourages people to interact.
  • It appears to have a democratizing affect as it tends to reduce territorial complaints.

The Cons

It has also had some unintended consequences. The cons are:

  • Environments can be loud.
  • There is limited privacy.
  • Employees find ways to screen out their neighbors (i.e. headphones).
  • Phone calls are difficult to make.
  • Meeting rooms are impacted.
  • It can be a difficult transition for employees who are used to their own space.

Adapt to Your Company’s Style

If you are considering moving to Open Floor Plans, consider whether or not  this will work for the type of tasks your employees need to accomplish. Also consider how can you make it more palatable and individualized for your company’s and staff’s needs. Companies that succeed in implementing the open floor plan have found a few common factors that help the transition:

  1. They provide other amenities to their staff to help mitigate the stresses that come with open offices.
  2. They provide conference rooms and phone booths that staff can book.
  3. They provide more kitchens and break rooms and other opportunities for staff to get up and move around.
  4. They also provide library resources for collections of items that staff would historically have had at their desks.

Making the Transition Easier

The employees at these companies tend to have roles that benefit from interaction with others.  Creative work and team project work can be helped by the proximity engendered by open layouts.  Projects that require a lot of concentration by individuals may not be improved by open layouts. Open floor plans may work well at an internet startup, but may not be as effective in an attorney’s office.

Implementing Open Floor Plans in a company that’s historically used cubicles and offices can be particularly difficult.  There will be a lot of resistance.  In those situations it becomes imperative that employees see that there are significant benefits for them in making the transition.  If not, you can easily alienate your workforce.

Keep your open floor plans from being distracting and demoralizing by providing resources and amenities that make up for the loss of privacy and noise that comes with more people in a room at a time.

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