Updated 2/15/2021. Originally Published 7/3/2015.
The popularity of an open floor plan in a workplace seems to be increasing in recent years.
In today’s organizations, gone are the days when employees, except executive leadership, are enclosed within the four corners of their own private office or a tall 8-foot walled cubicle.
- Are you losing workspace privacy at work?
- Does your workplace suddenly seem noisy?
- Have you brought your headphones to work to provide a measure of quiet or “white noise” while you work?
In numerous cases, the offices are giving way to cubicles or sectioned workspaces. For those who previously had 6-foot partition walls, seemingly with a measure of privacy, those walls have shorted to 4 feet. Recently, the physical barriers have disappeared.
Historically, organizations have recognized the value of teamwork and easy interaction between colleagues can be a great contributing factor to a company’s success.
Open Floor Plan: Saving Space or Improving Teamwork?
Contrary to popular belief that open-concept floor plans are used by companies to simply reduce real estate expenses, a reported benefit is increased team collaboration. Reviewing ideas with each other with face-to-face interaction is an alternative to playing telephone roulette.
Workspace Flexibility and Adaptability
Though workplace privacy may be important to the staff, it is important to know that the flexibility an open concept floor plan offers is an improvement to the isolation of the cubicle environment.
Assigned workspaces are within visual distance or earshot of other teams or departments. The belief is that open workplaces provide the opportunity for a lively exchange of opinions, plans, and ideas thus creating a collaborative environment.
Teamwork Tips within an Open Workspace
Within the open floor plan working environments, some key elements reported include:
- Personal Space
- Workplace Privacy
- Unexpected Benefits
- Work Habits
Respect assigned “personal space”. Yes, it will be limited, and everyone will need to respect the boundary lines. An open workspace is not an open invitation to raid your co-worker’s supply drawer or pick up the personal photos.
Encourage each team member’s involvement, after they can see and hear anyway. Take advantage of the proximity. Collaboration on ideas can occur much quicker. No longer will you need to set up an Outlook Meeting Invitation to schedule a formal meeting if everyone is within eye distance of each other. Ideally, this will result in quicker discussion and reduced formalized meetings.
Team members and immediate managers can now practice flexibility in communication styles when sharing ideas and new concepts.
Individual workspace and zones are important. Nevertheless, it is equally important to remember that privacy may not a part of the current job description.
Embrace the idea that your manager’s manager may now be visible in the open work area. Consequently, you will be able to match a face with a name on the organization chart – as will leadership. Be prepared for the increased visibility.
An open floor plan can also be a space-saving feature for your company. Could this translate to other benefits for your organization, such as on-site health club or daycare?
Your manager is watching. There are pros and cons to your manager being readily available. Impressing your manager is easier when they can directly observe you leading the team huddle to resolve a customer’s problem.
Improve your timeliness. Managers can easily observe individual arrival and departure schedules.
This new work environment will allow everyone to meet “at a glance”.
No longer will you need to wait until the monthly birthday celebrations or the annual holiday celebration to connect with colleagues on other teams.
Take advantage of the open concept throughout the organization. Expand your reach whenever working with other project teams within your organization.