The Open Office is dead, long live the Open Office!
Some of us are not big fans of the open office concept, obviously, but it is here to stay.
Or perhaps not exactly the open office, but the Activity Based Office (ABO). I beg your pardon?
The ABO concept is a hybrid solution that mitigates the adverse aspects of open spaces and offers the best of both worlds; it reconciles the peace and quiet found in an individual office with the transparency, flexibility and sense of community of an open workplace.
Look around: a mobile and tech savvy generation is turning to new ways of working that challenge both the cellular and the open office concept. Activity measurements and employee satisfaction surveys all point in the same direction: there needs to be a balance between communication and concentration in the office.
At a time when we collaborate across continents, working remotely can be a good solution at times, but it needs to be a positive choice: employees should not be forced to isolate themselves at home to find a quiet place. The office must cater to collaborative and individual working needs and give everybody easy access to the type of space they need – when they need it. This may even depend on the mood people are in: on some days you just need the buzz of the open office and engage with others to be productive, on others you are better off in a more quiet space even for routine jobs.
If the space is designed to host different activities and offer a variety of work settings and atmospheres, people can make these choices in the same way they choose a restaurant or bar with their friends. A small meeting room or collaboration booth can be used as project room, to host tele- or video-conferences, to stay focused on drafting a presentation or sales proposal, … It can be set up in a more formal or informal way, more private or more open, etc.
The office should support easy access to colleagues as well, so that boundaries between divisions are of an organizational nature rather than a physical. Studies indicate that people are happier and more productive at work when they have regular social contacts with co-workers in addition to work and task contact.
In conclusion: a shared ABO concept is the solution to optimize space usage (which will also help to achieve your sustainability goals) as well as to offer the flexibility that today’s agile enterprises and their staff need.