If there’s one good thing that open-plan offices did, it was to banish the old style offices to the box room. The popularity of open-plan layouts in the 1980s and 90s meant that gone were the days when management would lock themselves up in the most generous share of square metres, leaving their subordinates to find their own nook and cranny. Open-plan offices heralded a new office democracy where everyone could see each other and talk to each other.
And talk they did. Until we slowly started to realise that open-plan offices weren’t as productive as intended. True, there was increased collaboration – however, the layout encouraged lack of privacy and absence of quiet zones where you could concentrate on your work.
Modern offices combine the best of both worlds: an open-plan for teamwork and secluded zones where you can do work that requires a bit of silence.
We have all heard the stories of companies that first started out as a group of friends, crammed in a small rented office. True, the space was tight. However, the closeness brought about a certain energy, which in turn fuelled the growth of the company. So the company moved to a larger office space where everyone had their own office. Yet the energy of the smaller office was lost.
Office space largely determines the energy and output of a company and the chemistry between different team members
There is a moral to this story: that office space largely determines the energy and output of a company and the chemistry between different team members. An open-plan space can help instil a sense of collaboration and support. Towering partitions come down and people can have conversations, exchange ideas, and discuss new concepts – this, in turn, generates new business.
However, a modern office also includes private spaces where team members can write or go through notes, do research, make personal phone calls, participate in video-conferences and work uninterrupted for a couple of hours.
Nowadays, more employees are much less tied to their office space: they are out on meetings, working from home, or are tapping away at their laptop in a nearby cafe. However, when these employees come into the office, they still need a space where to work. On the other hand, companies cannot keep a reserved space for an employee who is only at the office a couple of times a week. The win-win situation is to provide touchdown spots: these are workstations which belong to everyone and no one. Just book it and it’s yours for the time you require.
Flexibility is key to modern offices. Not all team members do the same work or have the same approach. Some people have to be on the phone all day, others are responsible for research and are mostly at their desk, while those conducting sales are constantly in and out of the office. This means that a modern office has to provide a variety of spaces that cater for everyone.
Gone are the days when people didn’t have fun at work. Nowadays, most companies appreciate that by providing a fun element at work, employees look forward to coming to work every morning. Job satisfaction in turn boosts productivity, encourages creativity and helps management attract and retain talent. Having a well-equipped kitchenette and an attractive break-out area can help employees bond together. And there’s nothing better than a video game console or a billiards table to fuel some healthy competition.
Nature also helps boost employee satisfaction. When renting an office, companies should give due importance to nature: a nearby open space, great views or a beautiful garden helps employees relax and be more creative at work. Natural light and air also play an important role.
Location is also critical. It’s useless having a beautiful and modern office space if it’s not in a central area. Office locations which are served with nearby cafes and restaurants, open spaces and entertainment areas are conducive to employee satisfaction as well as productivity: we all know that a chance encounter with someone in a cafe could well translate into new clients and, in turn, added business for the company.
Of course, a modern office doesn’t work on its own. Concepts such as open-plan spaces, hot-desking and private booths require an open mind. Office design has to be backed by the right company culture. It’s useless investing in a modern office when management is always asking why someone isn’t at their desk.
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