Should We Open This Up?
Maybe it’s time to move to an open office design
Congratulations. You have considered your options, looked at the function of your space in relation to your business, and made the popular decision of moving to a modern, open office design and layout. Then again, maybe you didn’t have a choice at all. Maybe you moved into a space selected for you or designed by the landlord. Most businesses, after all, don’t have the luxury of building and shaping their own space. Either way, there is plenty to look forward to in your new office.
We are here to explore three of the major benefits of an expansive, wall-less office space. And we have a little advice on taking advantage of your design. We will only touch on this once, but it’s worth noting that you should consider your introverts and quiet employees as you lay out the space. Is there an area you can cloister off for them to use? A quiet space to focus and recharge is imperative when you have employees who tend toward introversion.
The three most apparent and impactful advantages of the open design are attracting employees, increasing collaboration within and across departments, and what we like to call, letting the light shine. Alone, each of these represents an opportunity to grow your business while increasing innovation and performance. Together, they are a formidable triumvirate that can launch your company to heights you dared not image.
Attract (and Retain) Employees
One of the key factors in winning favor with potential employees is the amenities of the office. You don’t have to be among the fortunate: headquartered in the heart of San Francisco or Portland, to add a few modern amenities to your space. Maybe sleep pods and bike shares are too much for you, but there is no reason you cannot stock the kitchen or provide comfortable, clean office furniture. The open design allows you to display the high end offerings your company provides to all who enter the office.
Remember that an open office is a visible office. You have to be clean and organized. Furthermore, you cannot do it alone. You need to instill a culture of neatness and tidiness. A little clutter in a wide open space can spoil the view and impression in a hurry. Use a professional junk hauling service or trash removal app, and consider upping the frequency and breadth of your cleaning crew’s scheduled visits.
Open offices also appear less hierarchical than the closed designs of the past. The boss and the leadership team are often indistinguishable from the rest of the gaggle when the corner offices and closed doors are removed. This could be the ideal time to flatten your leadership structure a bit, which reduces redundancies in management and erases the boundaries between executives and team members.
The simple act of removing walls or cubicles means that your team members will, for the first time, see each other as they walk throughout the office. You will see a measurable and noticeable rise in serendipitous interactions. Your team will know what other teams are up to, and those magical watercooler or lunch room moments will spark new creations and ideas.
We are a tribal species, and as we reduce the boundaries that kept us apart, we will begin to interact in new ways. We also will begin to see, both literally and figuratively, what other successful teams are doing. Sometimes, simply knowing what another group is working on can inspire or influence you and your work.
Let the Light Shine
First, let it shine literally. Remove the blinds and shades as you haul away the old doors and cubicle walls. A light, bright office vibrates at a higher frequency than a sheltered, dark space. Use the natural energy and Vitamin D boost from the sun.
It is also time to let the light shine on two groups that make or break the office: your high performers and your employees who need improvement. If you’ve hired well, you will have a staff that knows how to learn from each other. New employees learn to navigate the office structure by watching how successful and well-liked people operate. Without the walls, you have created an environment where low performers are exposed and high performers are on display.
Work with your management team to highlight the high performers and set them up as examples. Use the same “shine the light” philosophy to help your managers easily identify the employees that need extra coaching or oversight. In general, take advantage of the visibility and brightness in your new office.
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