In October, The Harvard Business Review published an insightful series of articles that attempted to answer a poignant, yet ever lingering question: why do we hate our offices?
It’s something that our society has tried to solve time and time again, usually with a much too simplistic solution. Case in point: after people tired of “cubicle farms”, open plan offices were all the rage as they appeared, in theory, to solve every issue that workers had had with their office cubes. This simplistic approach doesn’t seem to be working. By going to the exact opposite side of the spectrum, or the other extreme, open plan offices cause quite a lot of problems on their own, including lack of privacy and more distractions.
It’s becoming clearer that some balance between the closed off cubicles and the open office plan needs to be struck. More companies are beginning to look into what is being called “activity based working,” a new method that seeks to be the happy medium, allowing individuals to choose the space which best accommodates their tasks at hand. For example, an employee who needs to concentrate and avoid distractions can take solace in private work spaces while another group of employees who need to collaborate can go to a space specifically designed to cater to that purpose. This method of working has seemingly bridged the gap between cubicles and open plan offices, solving many of the problems associated with each. It has also put power in the hands of the workers – giving them the autonomy to pick which situation works best for what they are doing. The good news is that employees mostly pick correctly, allowing them to be not only more comfortable and more happy with their working environment, but also more efficient.
Even more good news – you do not need to completely re-design your office or change your location to offer your employees the benefits that activity based working seems to have. Instead, you just need the right furniture.
If You Need to Create Private Spaces
Many people just don’t do their best work in cubicle farms, and it is understandable that many companies have been moving away from such a setup. However, many people, especially introverts, do want the ability to go to an area where they are given some privacy- the one benefit of cubicle farms. Here are some furniture pieces that can help you give employees a higher level of privacy in the workplace, especially if you currently have an open plan office or a benching system in place.
Wall dividers – Adding a tall wall divider is a great way to section off the space and to add a higher level of privacy. These wall dividers block an individual’s view, which can go a long way when it comes to helping workers avoid distractions and to giving them a sense of ease. There is nothing more distracting than feeling watched and constantly monitored as you work.
Panels – These panels can give you extra privacy while you are seated at your desk. We all know how irritating it can be to have someone look over your shoulder as you type or read. This barrier gives both you and any coworker sitting beside you peace of mind.
Privacy booths/sound barriers – Part of the privacy crisis is that many employees are being overwhelmed by distractions, constantly losing focus as they work. This can be an incredibly frustrating experience, and it can also greatly limit productivity and the quality of work. Privacy booths (such as the comfy furniture piece from National Office Furniture pictured above) give individuals a space to retreat to that not only limits distractions (as it also acts as a sound barrier), but also provides a way to comfortably work away from your desk with convenient power outlets.
If You Need to Create Collaborative Spaces
A totally open plan office doesn’t fix all of our problems. While they were intended to promote collaboration, studies have found that that isn’t always the case. Many employees actually feel hindered or intimidated by the absence of any boundaries which leads to less teamwork. Having designated spaces for collaboration can help. Here are a few ways to create meeting and collaborative spaces.
Add comfortable furniture – incorporating comfortable meeting room furniture or reception room furniture, like the Synergy Collection, in sectioned off areas or private rooms is a great way to create an instant collaborative space. Creating an employee lounge or adding couches and tables to the break room are two additional strategies that can be used to encourage more collaboration. The biggest issue is to ensure that certain areas are designated and set aside for strictly collaborative work.
Add portable furniture – Having meeting furniture that is easy to move and multi-functional, like these tablet chairs and sofas from OFM, ensures that you can collaborate on the go or relocate to any area that best suits your needs. This can be incredibly useful in any sized working environment.