Open space offices, are they still a trend? What are the benefits of working in an open space? Are we just talking about space or a cultural change in the organization?
There is a key element when designing workspaces: people. The worker’s experience must be the axis on which the other concepts must revolve. This means that, when defining the spaces, the experiences, needs and well-being of the staff must first be considered.
People are the protagonists, and under this approach decades ago, companies began to remove workers from their traditional individual cubicles, offering them an open-plan office or open space instead.
WHAT DO WE UNDERSTAND BY OPEN-SPACE OFFICES?
The concept of open space offices refers to offices in open spaces, with more spaces for common areas and teamwork. Spaces also with more natural light, to make the work space more human.
More than an architectural design, the open space is a state of mind and a corporate culture that is promoted by the company.
As its name suggests, open space offices give preference to open and collaborative environments that encourage innovation, horizontality and teamwork. The result: greater integration of workers, more communication and a better work environment.
The concept of open space offices was invented in Germany, after World War II, as a reaction from architecture to the verticality of German fascism. Its design was based on a study of the communication patterns between the different departments of the organization and the people who made them up.
PROS AND CONS OF OPEN SPACE OFFICES
Increasing performance, improving the work environment and optimizing spaces are some of the benefits of implementing open space offices. The simple fact of eliminating divisions generates more fluid communication, favoring interaction between collaborators and that implies breaking the pyramidal structure, giving way to a more horizontal arrangement where the integration of all employees is encouraged and the feeling of belonging and community.
By improving the communication of workers and the functionality of the space, workflows are favored through a more comfortable space and therefore productivity increases.
This type of space is an element that unites people with each other, and with the brand, its purpose and its values, an especially important issue at this time after months of confinement.
Although there are quite a few points in favor, not all are positive points. There are some people who do not feel completely comfortable with this model and miss the privacy that a private space provides them.
In the open space office model there are many sources of distraction (colleagues talking, telephones, etc.). Precisely, one of the consequences of the pandemic and hybrid work models is the increase in noise derived from the increase in videoconferences, for example. This can be a cause of conflict, in addition to negatively impacting the activity and well-being of many people.
REQUIREMENTS OF AN OPEN SPACE
Therefore, what should we take into account when designing an open space?
One of the biggest challenges presented by offices in recent years, with the extension of the concept of open space, was the difficulty of workers to concentrate and collaborate in the same homogeneous space.
New office concepts address this problem by providing distinct, well-differentiated spaces for collaboration and concentration. The objective is that workers have the appropriate space for the work they have to do at all times.
An example is the “concentration spaces”, such as libraries and phone booths or acoustic booths, for example.
Acoustic booths for offices are one of the functional spaces most valued by professionals, along with rooms for teamwork and innovation rooms.
These booths have proven effective both for creating concentration spaces and for designing places to hold private conversations, both in person and remotely, without disturbing those around them.
In addition to guaranteeing private areas and assuring sound insulation as much as possible, for open space offices to function properly, it is necessary to establish rules of coexistence, with guidelines regarding tones of voice, conversations and other sources of noise that may affect other colleagues. Order and cleanliness in these environments is also key to avoiding disorder within the office.
OPEN SPACE OFFICES, A CULTURAL CHANGE ASSOCIATED WITH SPACE
In an office with these characteristics, employees will enjoy a higher quality space, with greater flexibility and with different environments to share experiences, ideas and moments with their colleagues. Now, questions of the type usually arise: Why do I have to change my way of working? Why can I no longer have my own office and privacy? We are talking about cultural change.
The implementation of new forms of organization, technologies or spaces means facing a certain spirit of rejection of change. For this reason, in the implementation phase of an office it is of vital importance to deploy a solid change management program to help workers understand the reasons for and the benefits associated with this change, both for them individually and for the entire organization.