5 Tricks To Increase Productivity In An Open Office

This post was originally published on OPEN Forum.

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Open-office plans,
popularised by tech giants like Facebook and Google,are believed to promote collaboration and creativity.

According to the International Management Facility Association, 70% of all offices in America today are open-plan workspaces. In an office where everyone can see and hear each other, how do you make sure your employees are productive? A lot of this has to do with the design of the space. Little tweaks here and there can keep employees comfortable and boost productivity.

These innovations may be more expensive at first for employers, but, in the long run, could help workers be happier, healthier, and therefore, more creative and productive.

Moveable furniture.

Open-office spaces are believed to promote collaboration, but this is mostly helpful for extroverts who typically socialize more than introverts. For workers who need the privacy to concentrate, open-office plans can be distracting.

This is where moveable furniture is helpful. Desks and cabinets can be reconfigured so that employees can work individually or collaboratively. A white paper published by office-design company Steelcase says that furniture in today’s workplace needs to be able to switch to different work modes, since we’re all working with much less personal space than in past generations.

Seating alternatives.

Sitting at your desk all day will literally kill you. A study from the University of Sydney found that sitting for eight to 11 hours daily increases your chances of dying by 15% in four years. What should you do instead? Provide areas for employees to stand while working, or encourage individual standing and treadmill desks. Yoga balls and kneeling chairs can also be better alternatives than traditional chairs because employees are able to get a bit of exercise while working. Even if the exercise isn’t strenuous, it can still boost energy and productivity and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Small spaces for thinking.

There will be times when employees need areas to put their heads down and concentrate on a problem or strategy. An open-office plan can hinder the progress of this individual work. How do you create private spaces in an open-office plan? Use furniture and designs that can easily be turned into other spaces. For example, employers can position couches, moveable walls, and desks in a way that prevents employees from seeing one another — a big distraction — while in these private spaces.

Areas that promote collaboration.

A lot of people like working in a coffee shop because they enjoy the sea of people and comfortable furniture all around. Employers can create a similar vibe in their office to promote all kinds of interactions whether that be socializing, brainstorming, or collaborating.

New York’s miLES storefronts, a network of public shared workspaces, incorporates a coffee-shop atmosphere in its office. Employers can create a social area in their offices by adopting more bench-like tables — just like coffee shops do — comfortable lounging areas, and available coffee to invite mingling among workers.

No assigned seating.

Employees who are able to sit wherever they want may be more productive and collaborative, reports Rachel Feintzeig at The Wall Street Journal. Flexible seating arrangements enable workers to find where they work best. For example, some people prefer sitting next to a wall, while others like to be in the middle of the room. Some people want to sit next to quiet colleagues, while others want a more talkative neighbour to bounce ideas back and forth with. Employees at design consulting firm IDEO are encouraged to play musical chairs at work weekly to stay inspired and boost productivity.