There have been a lot of articles lately espousing the benefits of the “officeless” office. This can mean anything from a cube farm to open rooms with technology connectors hanging from the ceiling and tables on wheels. As diverse as the designs are the discussions of the impact on productivity. Before you undertake this type of office transformation, here are a few things to contemplate:
Be honest about why you are doing this. Cost cutting is the main reason a company eliminates offices. Don’t try to snow your employees by claiming that your primary motivation is better collaboration or fostering innovation. If you need to reduce rent costs, tell them. You could probably get a laundry list of ways to reduce occupancy expense by asking your employees and it may save you an expensive redesign.
Have a plan for noise reduction. Other than lack of privacy, the main complaint of workers in open office environments is noise. I can attest to this having graduated from a cube farm to a bullpen (open floor with desks lined up next to each other) in my first job. My second day at my new desk I was talking to a coworker who was standing next to me when the person in the next desk over put her hand over the mouthpiece of her phone and screamed “will you SHUT UP!” To this day I wonder what the person on the other end of that phone thought about that exchange. Obviously this was before the advent of phone headsets, white noise and taller cube walls- all of which are good noise reduction options.
Do give your employees a secure space for their personal items. Whether it is a locker or a locked file drawer, your associates will definitely be more productive if they aren’t worried about their wallets and purses disappearing when they go to the restroom. If they only come into the office periodically, having a place to stow files and work related supplies will definitely make their time in the office more productive.
While they don’t work for everyone, some companies have reported improvements in communication and a reduction in internal emails due to open environments. Whether you have to do it for cost reasons, or you have other motivations, be transparent and think through the impact to your employees before you knock down the first wall.