So, your office is moving to an open plan. It can be a challenging transition, especially if you’ve worked in an office for a long time. There’s some inevitable anxiety and uncertainty that accompanies a shift from a closed to an open office environment. How do you handle confidential conversations? How do you lead calls and host meetings if you’re competing with noise or distractions? Most importantly, how can you be productive and effective in this new environment?
Transitioning to an open plan doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, if it’s an open plan where you have a range of spaces to support focus and collaboration, you might even be more effective and productive. Environments that are mostly open, but provide ample on-demand private space are the most effective and offer the best experience for employees. These environments provide areas of enclosure that support privacy and individual work, even while most or all employees sit in “open” individual spaces.
While I assume you do close to 100 percent of your work behind a closed door today, there are some aspects of working without an office that you’ll likely adjust to faster than you may expect:
Working in the open – There are probably many times that you’ve had to figure out how to be productive in different types of environments that are noisy or less than ideal for what needs to be done at that time, such as on a plane, in a hotel lobby, in a conference center lounge between meetings, etc. You’ll draw on this experience to help you acclimate and help you feel more comfortable doing some of your work in the open that you previously would have done behind a closed door – non-sensitive phone calls, individual work that’s not confidential, and conversations that aren’t private.
Finding a meeting space – If you’re moving into a balanced work environment with a range of spaces to meet that are close by and aligned to your team’s work patterns, this should be easier than you may expect. It’s certainly a change from being able to host every interaction in your office, but if you have small meeting rooms equipped with technology nearby, along with a range of functional informal meeting areas, this will be an easier adjustment than you may expect.
Reducing your storage – While your office today is likely a place where you organize yourself and express who you are, we often hear from leaders how liberating it is to reduce their storage and free themselves from unnecessary paper, filing, and storage. This a good first step to being leaner, lighter, and more thoughtful about the physical materials you need to be successful each day.
However, it’s expected that there will be challenges to overcome with the change. For example, the flexible workplace we developed for an international government organization is being implemented in phases throughout its headquarters in New York. In this complex and multifaceted organization, the major challenges have been about messaging, communication, and stakeholder engagement. We worked with the client to develop a multi-pronged process and communication approach that could be delivered both top-down and through a more grassroots effort.