Collaborative behavior as a path to open office success

According to the International Facility Management Association, 70 percent of US-based offices today have some form of an open office concept. However, this popular workplace trend is far from perfect. In fact, in some cases open offices are doing the opposite of what they were set out to accomplish: encourage relationship building, employee health and flexibility.    

Employees who work in an open office space seem to agree that the setup can be noisy and chaotic. Even the latest headlines scream the uptick in inefficiency, referring to open office plans as “disasters.”  A Harvard Business School study observed employees who switched from individual cubicles to an open office plan and found there was actually less collaboration after the switch, with 73 percent less face-to-face interaction and 75 percent more time on instant messenger.

One recent analysis portrayed it perfectly: “When dedicated desks are sacrificed in the name of ‘creative flexibility,’ when introverts are forced to attend more meetings at touchdown tables simply for the trendiness of meeting at touchdown tables, when a phone call echoes across 2,000 square feet, when desk sizes are reduced to fit more workers into one open room, you begin to have a privacy crisis on your hands.”

But privacy isn’t the only issue. With open office plans, many times companies are forcing employees to be social and work in an environment that they may neither like nor work well in.  And yet, the open office model still remains popular – and the trend doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In fact, most organizations have recently completed or are planning office transformations featuring the open plan design.

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