According to recent interior design practices, the days of worker-bees hovering around an onslaught of honeycomb-like cubicles are long gone. Unless everyone in your workplace focuses on independent projects, cubicle armies with walls barring employees from easy communication are probably not the most conducive to collaboration. Many business owners are finding that an "open office" format is much healthier for teamwork. Trading traditional office cubicles in for high tech workstations or long open office tables make much better alternatives for the collaborative workspace. Not only can employees communicate more freely, but powering up is far less costly for a long table than it is for a train of energy consumptive box cubicles. This is one case in which less power means more money!
While open offices are definitely popular, not everyone works best in a room filled with loud communication. Different employees will have different needs. Instead of giving each person their own cubicle, however, many business owners are finding it simpler to offer their employees different "work zones." Each zone is a different environment. Some rooms allow talking and teamwork; others are quiet work rooms requiring silence or minimal speech to reduce distraction. This way, employees can alternate rooms based on their needs. When the need for teamwork arises, they can head for the conference room equipped office presentation materials to share ideas. After, they can go to a seminar in the training room. When it's time to work alone, quiet rooms filled with personal desks or couches provide a quiet, comfortable place to get things done.
In open offices, personal space can be hard to come by - and it's also one thing many employees miss the most about having a personal cubicle. However, you don't have to resort to forcing employees to live in a box. These days, information protection is one of the most valuable. Making sure every employee has a personal laptop or computer helps to ensure everyone gets their own virtual space. Adding individual lockers or cubbies can also help employees feel they have security in an open office. Headphones and soundproof walls help to reduce noise pollution for the employees trying to concentrate on something personal. In fact, many offices have made use of movable wall screens (inspired by Asian shoji screens) to divide space without spending money to put in a wall.
* Bonus Tip: Keeping everyone powered in an open office is a challenge, especially if everyone moves around. Adding power stations, like the Symmetry Isle power tower, is a great way to make sure everyone stays fully charged. It's both efficient and cost effective!
All too often, business owners experimenting with the open office climate find their employees are annoyed, distracted, or even a little too communicative. Outlining a set of rules, or "code of conduct," can help everyone work efficiently when together, and when apart. Headphones are one of the most popular ways of saying, "do not disturb" in the office. Meetings held behind closed doors often mean "authorized personel only," as in, "if you didn't get invited, stay out." Alternatively, meetings held on training tables out in the open usually mean that anyone can participate. Make the rules clear by emailing or posting them around the office.
Bring Employees Together
Sometimes, uniting employees in more than just their work is an excellent way to increase the corporate bond. Don't be afraid to organize company events such as potlucks, reward ceremonies, office challenges, fun classes, and games. Make some of the events family friendly to increase the likelihood of employees finding commonalities that may help them work together better. In addition, make sure to provide plenty of recharge time. Allowing employees a little extra time to let loose with a simple basketball game can help release pent up energy, keep employees focused, and help them bond. More than likely, the bond will carry over when it's time to buckle down at the desks!
* Bonus Tip: In many Asian countries, businesses have set times for stretch breaks and exercise, in which everyone in the room can take a break from the desks and cubicles in order to improve health and focus.