Imagine that a medium-sized public relations firm is looking for a way to increase ideation and creative collaboration within their office. The company is in a traditional office space high in a skyscraper with a cube farm in the interior and executive offices lining the outer walls. Aside from the ubiquitous muffled voices and ringtones, the office is remarkably quiet. Everyone is essentially an island unto themselves. Communication is performed mostly by email and conference room meetings.
To change the dynamics in the office, the company decides to change the “feel” of the office within the same 20,000 square feet of space. There are random clusters of high-tech aluminum desks and ergonomic chairs, a large sunken open meeting room off in one corner where small groups flutter in and out for impromptu meetings, and an activity “center” in the middle. The lack of visible walls creates an expansive view of the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows that were previously only visible in the offices. Who knew there was a lake on one side and a small open horizon on the other?
Suddenly, there’s pronounced dynamic flow to the office communication – and a lot more of it. Colleagues are having conversations about work, about projects, and building relationships. It’s stimulating, fluid, and collaborative.
Those are just some of the benefits of the open office.
“Successfully designed open offices foster collaboration or ‘collisions’ between work groups, cater to individual work styles, and provide mobility through advanced technological expansion,” says Michelle Boolton, National Design Manager, Business Interiors by Staples. In turn, business innovation leads to IT investment in things like advanced wireless technology, video conferencing and cloud computing, enabling both local and virtual work styles and inter-team collaboration, she adds.
In fact, many office workers actually believe they are more productive in environments that are akin to the company in the example above. A Staples Advantage productivity survey bears this out: 70 percent of office workers and managers said they believe people are far more productive now, even in the midst of the incessant distractions of Twitter and March Madness. That same group blamed non-collaborative work environments as a major cause of declining productivity.
Clearly, open office environments are not for every company. There are some businesses that still need the peace and quiet of closed offices and high cubicles. But if your business is seeking ways to increase creative thinking, collaboration, diversity in work styles, and process productivity, then an open office may facilitate the environment your business needs.