The open office debate is an old one. It’s been bouncing back and forth since the 60’s (at least) and rightly so, for many reasons. From introverts to extroverts in the office, there will always be some workers who enjoy the open plan and the lively collaboration it brings, while others will struggle with the noise, interruption and lack of privacy.
Whilst it would be easier to neatly box individuals into an introvert or extrovert office environment, people don’t work to those traits all of the time. Humans are complicated, and their preferences change frequently due to a number of personal and professional factors.
High performers need a choice of environments
The one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work anymore (it never really did). It’s now about choice and flexibility to suit the changing daily needs of each individual.
Many studies support the notion that employees need variety. Gensler’s 2019 Workplace Survey, for example, found that the majority of workers (77%) want access to both collaborative and private spaces at different times. Their data found that high performers work everywhere – not at one desk in one environment.
The future workplace is adaptive
It’s not surprising that the concept of a multi-purpose, flexible work space designed for multiple tasks and personalities has gained huge ground.
But changing the ubiquitous open-plan office on a grand scale will take time, which is largely due to many perceiving the cost of refurbishment to be greater than the benefits it will bring – but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Thanks to many forward-thinking furniture designers, space planners and fit-out innovators, there are now numerous ways to achieve adaptive workspaces without changing the interior architecture of a building.
Moveable, pop-up and multi-functional solutions make it easy
Pods, booths, hubs, nests and dens are big news in office interiors. These often movable office containers come wired up, glazed and equipped with office chairs, desks, white boards and more to provide private, acoustically-sound meeting rooms and offices that can exist within open spaces.
These rooms can cater for individuals and groups. Booths, for example, typically provide a small space for a single person to make a private call, while pods and nests can comfortably seat a handful of people.
Screens and partitions, both solid and glazed, offer another solution to the creation of moveable work spaces, as do storage furniture and lockers, which can be used to zone an open space. These temporary walls can reduce noise and visual distraction without sacrificing light, temperature and air quality, providing havens for people to retreat to when work requires.
“The emphasis is very much on allowing energy to flow in collaboration areas, and quiet-time to exist for those who need to concentrate without distraction.”
From tech-free areas to pop-up idea hubs, these furnishings and features support productivity, performance, spontaneity, creativity and mobility without diluting the comradery and team benefits of an open plan office.
Social innovation hubs versus break-out areas – which is best?
Before you rush to fill your open plan office with a maze of partitions and collection of booths, these amenities require thought and planning. It’s not about the number of zones you provide; it’s about the benefit they bring to the worker – and they aren’t all made equal in terms of return.
The Gensler report found that some work spaces deliver a better experience and level of productivity than others. Spaces that didn’t connect to work, such as canteens and break-out areas, for example, ranked low on impact when compared to innovation hubs, maker-zones and quiet rooms.
If you’re unsure, get advice from a commercial fitout company first, as they can advise you on space planning and zoning, and give you a cost advantage when purchasing office furniture, too.
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