The Shift from Traditional Workspaces to Open Floor Plans with Bruce Platzman of AIS

April 3, 2019

What is the new office trend and why?

Most recently, the traditional office and workplace environment has shifted towards open floor plans and shared workspaces. These types of spaces are designed to encourage creativity and collaboration. Because of this, many companies like marketing and advertising agencies, media companies, technology firms and engineering and architectural firms have shifted in this direction. Open floor plans not only maximize all the available floor space, but some employers also say that it boosts employees’ accountability.

What is this trend driven by?

This trend is driven by both new technology and generational shifts in the workplace. Any time there are new innovations or concepts introduced people are eager to try them. As more Millennials and Gen Y’s enter the workforce work styles are changing and creating a demand for different office features.

Are there any problems associated with an open floor plan?

Although the purpose of an open floor plan is to increase collaboration, a recent study from Harvard Business School found that the interaction and collaboration in two Fortune 500 companies has actually decreased following the change to open office formats. The biggest complaint from employees about the open workspace environment is the lack of privacy, both visual and audio.

What type of product development is out there to fix these concerns?

The concerns surrounding the open floor plan is the driving force behind new innovation and product development. New products such as the adjustable-height work stations, currently the new trend, were a response to employees wanting a way to be more active during the work day. There have also been new innovations to create video and audio privacy in an open workspace, such as the “phone booth,” which allows employees to make private calls with clients or a quick break from the open floor plan. Common areas are also being redesigned to create private areas for private conversations to take place. Small groups are also able to utilize “huddle rooms,” or small conference rooms, to break away from the common area and have conduct a private meeting. Lack of storage was also a big concern with the open floor plan, so new product designs are being integrated into desk and benching so employees has their own space for their belongings.

What is important for employers to keep in mind?

When redesigning or reconfiguring an open office space it is important to keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Each and every company has its own culture and the employees have their own workstyles and preferences. Employees want to have a place to call their own where they can hang a picture or personalize the space to some extent, which can be difficult in the current environment. Before a big redesign, employers should take inventory of the workstyles and preference of their employees to develop a functional workspace. There is definitely a place where work areas are open and collaborative and it is also possible for employers to create a balance that serves their employees individual needs and privacy while also creating a collaborative, open environment.

Bruce Platzman is President and CEO of AIS in Leominster, MA, a leading manufacturer of commercial office furniture

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