The so called “Open Office Plan” has been a go-to strategy for the development of business environments for literally decades. Its most basic advantages have to do with the lack of barriers allowing easy lines of communication (some might say too easy..), and the layouts typically utilize tighter more intimate desking or short cubicle configurations in an open room, that use less square footage per person. That’s good in big cities and other places where office space is at a premium. Open office when done right, allowed a working environment that was intimate, team oriented and economically efficient.
While many in our industry are loudly heralding the death of open office in a post pandemic world, the team here at BE has a different take. While companies in a post pandemic world may be looking for more hygienic office design and furniture solutions, and looking to redefine the role and size of their offices, the answer is more complicated and nuanced than simply throwing open office into the junk heap of design strategies and putting everyone into a private office.
Part of the reason open office gets blamed by so many companies is that frankly, so many companies did it so badly. Before you throw your open-office concept into the dumpster, we’re here to tell you that a thoughtful, more considered approach can help you retain the best of open-office, increase privacy and reduce germ transmission, and reinvent the goals of your office space. Whether you’re planning to downsize your office space, re-task your teaming areas, create workplace hubs, your problem isn’t open office. It’s a problem of office intelligence that can be solved with the right alignment of design with your company culture, health best practices, and a rich understanding of what is out there in the world in terms of furniture and office construction techniques that bring it all together.
Here’s a few thoughts on how you can extend your open office strategy to meet the goals of the new world in office design, furniture and construction.
Incorporate a Sense of Wellness into your Open Office Strategy
In the past, most businesses chose the open office route to maximize the usage of limited floorspace and cut the cost of developing private offices for everyone. With COVID-19 still in play, the first reason has changed because a new mindset has developed. Businesses are now wondering how many people can I get in here safely? We’ve also noticed a shift in location. A lot of cramped NYC offices are now looking to relocate to equivalent or even larger office space in the NJ suburbs. This has a lot to do with current CDC social distancing guidelines but also a desire to expand while keeping costs down. To ensure everyone stays at least 6ft apart from one another while working, there has to be enough square footage per person.
Understanding the ultimate goals behind implementing this reinvented layout will help designers focus their efforts on the most important elements of their design. Including the logistics of a functional layout to promote the motivation, health and safety of employees at all times. This doesn’t require one to completely abandon open office, but with increased distancing, better workflow routing, and hygienic partitions and furniture, your existing open office concept can often be leveraged.
Choosing the Right Products to Promote Health and Safety
Commercial office furniture is an important tool to support the activities occurring within the different workspaces, and needs to be carefully considered in order to promote the most efficient workflow.
This means conducting an in-depth survey into each department to consider what they need to return safely to office. Taking this into account will help determine the right furniture and space to ensure employees thrive and feel safe in their work environment. Your workplace should consider solutions that ensure proper social distancing within each workspace, and the hygienic safety of your employees and the office environment. Luckily, there are many COVID-compliant products available that can easily be incorporated into an existing open office layout, such as acrylic barriers, air purifiers, sneeze guards, and more. Or if you’d like a more permanent solution, our construction division, BE Builds can help you design and install an architectural wall solution that is cost effective.
Stay Open, to Open Office
Open office design plans will continue to have its detractors, however we are here to tell you that the concept is not wholly incompatible with the new office normal. We might suggest however that help from our experts at BE can show you what is possible, saving you money and bringing you the office of your dreams at the same time.