By Peter A. Bacevice, Illustrations by Jinghang Huang
Clients often ask us if flexible open plan workspace is effective. While “effective” workspace means different things to different organizations, we have broadly discovered a number of benefits that an open office design can provide to a wide range of organizations. We did our homework to see what other research has been done in the field. Based on these findings, and on our experience, a number of insights emerge:
Trust & Increased Engagement
Bringing everyone into a shared space increases awareness of one another and builds trust within the team. Trust is linked with a number of positive outcomes, including employee engagement and morale. People are more engaged and committed to their work when they work in an atmosphere of trust, reciprocity, and transparency.
Reaping the Benefits of Increased Engagement
Research has demonstrated a positive long-term relationship between employee satisfaction/engagement and a number of key business outcomes, including productivity, profit, customer satisfaction, & reduced employee turnover.
Faster Interaction Times & Less Ambiguous Communication
Research has shown that a collaborative and more integrated spatial layout can densify the networks within an office setting and reduce interaction time among people (which can be indirectly related to increased productivity). These layouts increase overall interpersonal awareness within the organization, which makes interactions and communication more intelligible – and boosting productivity.
Three elements that help improve communication in teams are exploration, engagement, and energy. Open spaces are effective at increasing exploration of ideas among groups, better engagement within groups, and generating energy that comes from the opportunity to interact with more people overall.
Experiencing Positive Brand Values
Organizational brand values – and other attributes that define the essence of an organization – are more visible to people in an open office. Not only does this visibility help employees make sense of and understand key messages, but it also helps drive a connection to the organization and its broader purpose.
More Control for Employees
Open offices heighten peoples’ awareness of their surroundings, which is a good thing when those surroundings offer variety of settings to support different ways of working. People can see a wider range of resources available to them. All work environments have trade-offs for depending on individual work style preferences, but those differences are mediated by providing people more choice and control over their environment and how they structure their work.
Efficiency & Reduced Costs
Our experience shows that co-located space reduces overall space requirements by eliminating redundant support spaces and creating new efficiencies. Beyond the obvious real estate savings, we find that companies are more motivated to reinvest some of these savings in amenities and services that help engage and retain employees over the long-term.
Equality & Fairness
Although it’s an intangible benefit, co-locating all employees into a new space that gives everyone a fresh start enables a new and shared culture to flourish while leaving old behaviors behind. It also creates an opportunity for everyone to be on the same page and equally share in the benefits of the new work environment.
Organizations should consider what goals they want to achieve and explore the different ways that workspace can be used as a tool for getting there.