All offices, even traditional ones, offer a variety of spaces. An office might have separate rooms for meetings of different sizes, along with personal desks within an open-plan space or private rooms for employees to work individually. Flexible offices take this a step further.
Diversification is one of the five overarching principles in creating a workplace strategy (Workplace Adequacy™ Framework). It refers to the process of creating different spaces for different types of activities.
Suitable spaces for each task
Studies show that open-plan offices are tied to higher levels of stress and distraction, a correlation that strengthens when tasks are demanding and as the office grows in size.
This pattern can be due to the fact that those in smaller open-plan spaces experience less distractions and a greater degree of privacy, while co-workers might actually benefit from overhearing each other’s conversations as those surrounding each other often have work in common.
Yet the positive effects of increased interaction from having co-workers close to one another do not outweigh the negative effects of distractions in open-plan offices with designated desks.
If employees are always given a designated spot for individual tasks, it is difficult to provide for needs that work against each other. One person might need to focus on a demanding task while another needs to take a phone call – a well diversified office allows each to occur where it is best suited.
Plan for privacy
In workplaces where the ability to escape the open office layout is limited, employees will often report dissatisfaction with the lack of privacy.
One way to counteract the lack of privacy and reduce the problems primarily related to open-plan environments is to offer ample access to meeting rooms and work rooms that can be used when necessary. That way, employees can choose the workspace that suits them best depending on the type of task at hand. It is important for these rooms to be placed in close proximity to the open-plan space so that people don’t need to search for free rooms.
Let activities guide the choice of spaces
A well-diversified office takes employee activity profiles into account and creates spaces and surfaces that suit the activities at hand.
And people differ in their preferences. Some people might feel that they can complete a demanding task with a lot of noise around them, while others require an environment with total silence.
An activity analysis and physical environment analysis can help you discover which types of spaces employees like best, and for which types of activities.
For more information on what these types of workspaces might look like in an activity-based office, click here.
This article is based on the five principles for the development of a workplace strategy that we at WeOffice use to create bespoke workplace strategies. You can read more about them here.
References are taken from the book Workplace Strategy for the Flexible Office by Aram Seddigh. For more information on the book and workplace strategy in general, click here.
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KaarlelaTuomaala A, Helenius R, Keskinen E, Hongisto V. Effects of acoustic environment on work in private office rooms and openplan offices – longitudinal study during relocation. Ergonomics. 2009;52(11):1423–44.
Seddigh A, Berntson E, Bodin Danielson C, Westerlund H. Concentration requirements modify the effect of office type on indicators of health and performance. Journal of Environ mental Psychology. 2014;38:167–74.
Seddigh A, Berntson E, Jönsson F, Danielson CB, Westerlund H. Effect of variation in noise absorption in openplan office: A field study with a crossover design. Journal of Environmetal Psychology. 2015;44:34–44.
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