Open office planning has been the preferred workplace design model for more than a decade. Attempting to create seamless communication, idea sharing, and problem solving, the open-plan office melds coffee shop proximity with the tactful dialogue of a butcher shop. And with 70 percent of U.S. offices utlizing an open workspace, the popularity is undeniable. But there is a new office design trend moving into the American office space: the balanced workspace.
Office design, much like office productivity, is not standard fit, and recent studies have concluded that the open office concept might actually create disruption and distraction in the workplace. Additionally, open offices plan can also increase the spread of illness, create resonant stress, decrease productivity and creativity and even lower employee morale.
Not surprisingly, a survey of nearly 38,000 workers, researchers found that interruptions by colleagues (a common occurrence in an open office) were detrimental to productivity and that the more senior the employee, the worse they fared in getting back to work after a distraction.
Open offices eliminate an element of control for certain employees by leveling the office environment. By providing a variety of different types of spaces in your office, employees will regain that control and be more productive because there will always be a space that suits them, regardless of their work style or the type of work they are looking to accomplish.
Just as there are different types of learners, there different types of workers. There are those who can quickly re-route their attention back to their work after a distraction, and there are those who are drastically affected by interruptions. There are those who need complete silence to be productive, and there are those who prefer music or the quiet din of the office to silence when they work. Different work environments are required for different types of workers, and the balanced workspace just might be the answer to meeting the needs of workers with different work styles and preferences.
The appeal of the balanced workspace lies in its variety. A balanced workspace is one which offers a number of different types of work environments that employees can use as they please to facilitate their productivity. A balanced workspace can feature open work spaces to encourage collaboration and brainstorming, but those areas should be counterbalanced by private meeting areas and quiet spaces categorized by privacy and a distinct lack of distraction to suit those employees looking for a space to do intense, focused work.
Interestingly, Madison-based Epic Systems adopted balanced workspace design years ago and committed to creating individual offices for nearly every employee mixed with a variety of accessible group spaces. Because of the unique design, the common areas and conference rooms are veritable hangout spaces complete with fireplaces and comfortable furniture.
The key to productivity for office design just might lie in variety, and variety is the core facet of the balanced workspace. As the open office plans continues to reveal shortcomings, the balanced workspace is set to become the latest trend in office design as office workers continue to look for new and better ways to maximize their productivity and stimulate their workflow.