Staying Productive in an Open Office

Open offices, the hotbed for procrastination and the design of doom for the eternally distracted. Dating back to the 1950s, the original aim of the open office was to instill a sense of cross learning and collaboration with open space, large plants, and traditional furniture. Somehow, offices across the globe went in the other direction with clunky cubicles forcing workers into solitary space. However, the Tech-sector–and specifically the likes of Google–have broken down the literal and figurative walls of the mid-1900s office design, going with the original German design of open areas. But open office design has its drawbacks too, especially if a worker is easily distracted.

Overcoming Challenges

The challenge of designing an office space that provides an individual solitude (while also not stifling collaboration) is one that the team at Buy Rite Business Furnishings has had to overcome with our recent renovations. Very quickly, we realized that one of the key considerations had to be the personality types of our staff. Our sales team are outgoing and feed off of each other’s success but some of our in-house team need that solitude for handling sensitive information or calls. To combat these differences in personalities, we built “quiet zones” into our office’s design so that all employees can either be in the hustle and bustle of our sales area or the seclusion of our boardroom if they choose.

But, even if a cubicle has to be included in the office’s interior design, they don’t have to be the old, clunky walls of fabric that were made famous by the likes of Office Space. In fact, cubicle designs have come a long way over the past half-decade or so. From low-profile, frosted glass “walls” on bench-style long tables to retractable monitor arms, there are a significant number of ways that an employer can help create the illusion of separation without curtailing the open space for collaboration.

Increasing Productivity

Of course, productivity goes beyond just the potential for distracted employees. Things like messy cables and fatigue also eat into a lot of an employee’s productive time. Dealing with messy cables can not only be the bane of an employee’s existence, it can take hours away from their work in a month. Combat this by providing some form of cable management to keep cables neatly secured and prevent them from becoming entangled with legs, office chairs, or anything else that might be in their proximity. To combat post-lunch fatigue, consider providing height-adjustable desks. Although they are more expensive than a generic desk, the investment in your employees can pay dividends throughout their career.

A recent Australian study proves as much. They took a sample size of 230 desk-based workers and discovered that adjustable desks–which on average cost $344 per employee–can add a significant number of years on to an employee’s life. This, no doubt, reduces the amount of sick leave that a non-mobile employee would take as well and reduces the opportunity cost or even the soft costs caused by multiple employees making WorkSafeBC claims throughout the year.