The Open Work Environment: Removing Barriers, Not Just Walls

A workspace that’s balanced and designed to satisfy the needs of the company and the employee may seem like a radical shift in thinking for many, but as Elizabeth Dukes sees it, it’s what the next generation of workers needs in order to fulfill their true potential.

Image via iOffice.
Image via iOffice.

Yes, switching your office to an open layout is a physical change — but the impact it can have on your company’s morale, culture, and productivity is anything but superficial. A workspace that’s balanced and designed to satisfy the needs of the company and the employee may seem like a radical shift in thinking for many — but it’s what the next generation of workers needs in order to fulfill their true potential.

The skilled workers of today grew up in a world of instant gratification. Young workers access information and resources and socialize online. Unlike the generation before them, they can effectively work anywhere — from a park bench to a sofa in their living room. They’ve grown up in educational programs that promote team and collaborative work — and much of this work is conducted in wide-open spaces. As a result, they expect a similar environment in their workplace. They don’t want to be stuck in a high-walled, closed-door cube or office space where only information or co-workers are accessible. They want the freedom to move and the ability to be productive from anywhere in the world.

Even minor changes can greatly influence both your workers’ morale and productivity, making your entire company run more smoothly.

Given the long hours people spend at work, it’s imperative to redesign the work environment to make it more enjoyable, collaborative, and fun. Google pioneered this strategy with the launch of yoga classes, basketball courts, and even a bowling alley at its campus in Mountain View, Calif. Today, many companies serve free breakfast and lunch, have a ping-pong table, and provide couches and even rooms in which to nap.

While some of these ideas may seem like a stretch for your company, realize that even minor changes can greatly influence both your workers’ morale and productivity, making your entire company run more smoothly. Start by bringing down the cube walls to create quiet collaboration spaces — or eliminate offices and workstations for any employee who’s out of the office 50 percent of the time or more. This will result in enhanced flexibility for the workforce, but also have a direct impact to the bottom line. In the end, you may be surprised at what taking down the walls  —and ultimately, the barriers — between workers can do.

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