How to make open-plan offices more productive

Open offices aim to spur collaboration and innovation but often have exactly the opposite effect. Here’s how to harness their lost promise of productivity.

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For Randstad, that meant making sure every space was equipped with WiFi, of course, but also creating “connected conference rooms so they’d have a similar experience as they would at their desk or at home,” he says. “We use Google Hangouts for collaboration and meetings. We also quickly learned that even the smallest phone rooms required a screen they could plug laptops onto easily. So it was all about making that as simple as possible for them and being a seamless experience, regardless of where they are.”

While this can require a significant technology investment, including conference room TVs, projectors, speakers, cameras and other communications equipment, it goes a long way toward making workers comfortable and improving employee experience, he says. In Randstad call centers and sales offices, white noise machines in the ceiling help to mitigate distractions, as well, Stukalsky says.

Establish a hierarchy for resolving complaints

Finally, make sure you have a clear process and hierarchy for talking about problems and issues where and when they crop up, says Meister. One of the biggest issues employees face in open offices is not knowing how — or to whom — to voice concerns and problems.

“Where do you go to voice these things? Even with the trend toward open offices and the movement to open plan workspaces, about a third of our survey respondents say they didn’t know who they could go talk to if they had complaints,” Meister says. “A third say they go to HR — who doesn’t have the means to solve the problem. Only one in seven went to IT, who might actually have the budget and the wherewithal to suggest solutions like noise-canceling headphones, for instance.”

It seems open offices are here to stay, so it’s important to make sure you’re listening to your employees and equipping them with the tools they need to succeed. “We started this shift four or five years ago, and we’re still learning; you don’t just go to an open environment and it’s all great. You need to make sure you have new technology and develop best practices that are specific to each office and each team,” says Stukalsky.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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