Making your open plan office work for you

Open plan offices can be a challenge to get right. A working environment designed to foster interaction and collaboration can also wreak havoc with productivity thanks to increased noise levels and the greater potential for interruption. However, with a bit of thought and planning, it’s possible to make sure your open plan office is a great place for your employees to work. Here’s how.

Cut the clutter

Untidiness and open plan don’t mix. An office that’s in a state of disarray isn’t conducive to productivity, and with everything on view, mess is a lot more noticeable when your office is open plan. Cut out as much unnecessary clutter as you can, storing office supplies in cupboards and drawers and tidying cables away as far as possible. Ask your employees to minimise what they keep on their desks and limit personal items to one or two things per person.

Climate control

Big spaces can be tricky to heat in the winter, and to keep cool during the summer, so effective climate control is a must. Keeping the temperature comfortable is also vital to productivity. There’s some useful advice on managing climate control in an open plan office here.

Greenery

Plants are a great way to help create a pleasant working environment in an open plan office, and studies have shown that they help reduce stress. Bigger plants can also help divide up an open plan office into different zones if you want to allocate portions of the office to particular purposes (such as meeting or breakout spaces) or teams.

Invest in noise-cancelling headphones

While they may not be appropriate for employees who are manning the phones, certain kinds of work require concentration, which can be difficult in a noisy open plan office. That’s why letting your employees listen to music on noise-cancelling headphones can be a great way to help them get their head down and focus on what they’re doing.

Traffic light system

Noise cancelling headphones not only help reduce distractions, but they also show when a worker doesn’t want to be disturbed. Another way to do this is to invest in ‘traffic lights’ for each employee’s desk, as discussed here. Red means they don’t want to be interrupted, while green means it’s fine to come and talk to them.

Agree some rules

Defining your own code of office etiquette is advisable in an open plan office, and could cover things like establishing quiet times, refraining from eating hot, strong-smelling food and keeping conversations to particular parts of the office. It’s a good idea to involve your employees in the process of drawing up this code of conduct, so that everyone has the chance to raise any issues they have with the open plan working environment. By doing this, you should end up with a set of rules that makes your office a better place for everyone.

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