Open Plan Offices: The Next Step

The goal: Organizational health. The key: A workspace that promotes and supports the mental, physical and social health of the workforce. It’s as simple—and complex—as that.

Faced with the task of creating environments that foster optimal achievement, today’s office designers are forced to think outside the cubicle and adapt to a new, more organic office culture. Pursuant to our deeper understanding of what motivates a modern workforce, more and more companies are redefining their square footage, eliminating barriers and embracing an updated version of the open plan workplace. Workers are responding to the more collegial, task specific atmosphere enthusiastically, which positively impacts the bottom line.

Open space office interior

Shunning traditional assigned desk mentality, the latest incarnation of the open plan workplace reflects a philosophy known as Activity Based Workspaces (ABW). A growing trend in this country that is already a fixture in Europe and Australia, ABW is based on the premise that no place in the office belongs to any one person. Instead, the entire office belongs to everybody. Rather than bringing every task to the same static workspace, workers move to a task specific location. Hence, employees do not have one assigned work station.

Rich with areas in which to complete various specific types of work, an ABW layout can include designated space for learning, focusing, collaborating or socializing. There will likely be areas suitable for both large meetings and smaller gatherings. And there will be niches for privacy and work that requires solitary concentration. The idea is to encourage fluidity and interdepartmental transparency while providing workers with physical activity as well as a constantly fresh perspective.

open office interior

Serving many masters, the ABW model eliminates the alienation of old fashioned cubicles and closed office doors, while tempering the more familiar open plan workplace theme with appealing and comfortable private spaces and areas of specific individual and group function. ABW zones can range from a quiet research library to a coffee shop with music where employees can make calls without fear of annoying others, to a stand-up work station for quick emails.

From a wellness standpoint, ABW is an open plan workplace prototype that accommodates individual needs by allowing employees to choose a workspace that suits their mood, personality and work habits of the moment. One person may require peace and quiet away from the fray while another thrives on surrounding energy. Sitting, standing or lounging, employees use their autonomy to go where they will be most effective—and happiest—at any given time. That freedom of choice is crucial to employee satisfaction.

In the 21st century, one office definitely does not fit all. But design an office with the wellbeing of your most valuable resource in mind and everybody wins.

Take the next step and consult a design expert to create an open plan workplace for your team!