How to move from Private Offices to an Open Office Plan?
Open offices are certainly the future of office spaces and in spite of various debates whether it is beneficial for the employees or not, the direct impact of dollars savings per year makes it a definitive move for most corporations.
CoreNet Global, a commercial real estate association highlighted that average space allotted to individual employees fell from 225 sq ft in 2010 to 176 sq ft in 2013 globally, and it has further gone down since then.
The current trend started when everyone wanted to imitate highly successful companies like Google and Facebook, who attributed their culture of collaboration and innovation to the open office designs. WeWork’s communal spaces and lounge areas are brilliant examples of how the company is commercializing the concept of open spaces, yet keeping the option of portable private areas as per demand.
More companies are following this trend to move into a balanced format of enclosed and open spaces that provide the best of both the formats. However, this shift in the environment can impact the behaviour of the employees and can have a direct impact on morale, retention and work effectiveness.
Few simple strategies might reduce the risk and result in a more effective workspace transition:
Connect all the internal functions:
Inputs from all internal functions like human resource, information technology and business leaders must be collated to create a plan that aims increased teamwork and improved business performance. Changes in the work process, implementation of new technologies, integration of performance evaluation and incentives can be interlinked to the larger design change philosophy.
Prioritize functional requirements over hierarchy
Planning the space design on functional needs rather than job levels can reduce risk to a great extent. The divisions among the employees can be much more prominent if the space demarkations are made on organizational hierarchy. There can be conflicting perspective among employees, supervisors and leadership about their need for the office spaces. A sudden change that provides exclusive private spaces to a certain group and alienates others can give rise to scepticism and mistrust. A good way to reduce the damage can be improving shared amenities to give something back to the employees who feel deprived due to these changes.
Conduct surveys to assess change readiness
Understand the comfort level of the employee by department, job-type and tenure with the company to understand the differences in change readiness. This might bring a common problem to the surface and lead to better design solutions.
Develop a targetted communication plan
To implement change without creating any stressful environment for the employees can be possible if all the inputs collated via survey and closed group discussions can be analysed and converted into a communication plan that states when and how to communicate the details of the project. A timely communication that emphasizes the benefits of the change and highlight the business rationale in broader context of other business decisions can help the employee understand the decision taken by the organization and accept the changes.