When they first became popular, shared and open-plan offices were touted as perfect environments for encouraging collaboration and creativity. In practice, they have some definite disadvantages.
Here we consider the challenges, along with ways to create privacy and boost concentration in open workspaces.
The main challenges of open-plan offices
In a survey by Career Junction, 60% of respondents felt they had too little privacy in an open-plan office. 70% said they would prefer to have a separate space or office.
50% said their current open-plan work environment made it difficult to work due to noise and distractions.
When employees need to concentrate or work on something confidential, the noise and lack of privacy in an open-plan office can be problematic.
Ironically, sharing an office also makes it harder to talk with colleagues. It’s hard to interact if you know others can see and hear you.
A Harvard Business School study found that open-plan offices may actually cause employees to withdraw. It showed that in open-plan environments, face-to-face interactions dropped by 70% while email correspondence increased by 50%.
Ways to create privacy and boost concentration
Here are just a few ideas for reducing disruptions and noise in an open-plan or shared office.
If space allows, lay the desks out in a way that minimises distractions. For example, try not to position people with a thoroughfare behind them, next to the printer or by a door that is frequently opened and closed.
Informal meeting areas
Create comfortable seating areas or lounges in the open-plan space for people to have impromptu meetings away from their desks. Try to position them out of the way or in a corner to minimise disruptions.
Booth or pod seating
Booth seating – also sometimes called pod seating – has high backs and sides. It can be used to create mini private areas or cubicles.
Booth seats instantly create more private spaces where meetings can take place, employees can tackle confidential work or people can simply concentrate better. Booths are also great for making phone calls or video conferencing.
K-Mark booth seating comes in a range of colours and sizes, including single, double and pod configurations.
A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can eliminate a lot of ambient noise including talking, ringing phones and noisy office equipment. Some music or sounds, such as rain, are even proven to enhance concentration and lower stress.
Use room dividers and plants
Room dividers and plants might not do much for noise, but they can make areas feel a little more private. Employees feel uncomfortable and on edge when they feel like someone is always watching them. Plants and dividers can help break direct line of sight.
Work from home days
Allowing your employees to work from home for one or two days a week, or when they are working on a particularly stressful project, will allow them to buckle down and wrap things up without worrying about distractions.
Do not disturb signs
Let your employees use a sign or signal of some kind to let other workers know when they are in the middle of something important and shouldn’t be disturbed. This will allow them to concentrate for a few hours without interruptions and wrap up a job quicker.
Soft and booth seating from K-Mark
K-Mark has an extensive range of armchair and sofas for your lounge areas.
Create informal meeting lounges in your open-plan office with K-Mark’s range of soft seating, ottomans and sofas.
We also offer booth seating and pods for extra privacy – and we can customise all our pieces to suit your preferences and office décor.