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3 Effective Tips for “Open Plan” Office Spaces

What do you do when private offices aren’t practical, cubicles aren’t collaborative enough, and totally open offices aren’t sufficiently private? Design your office as an “open plan” office space.

Properly planned, these offices provide the perfect amount of both teamwork and solo brainstorming time. Plus, they save space and money — two things that are often in very short supply. Go for used open plan office furniture, and you can save even more money. These desking systems and office pods look like new office furniture, and cost half the price.

1. Different Strokes for Different Folks


Some companies should provide several different types of work spaces, from very private to right out in the middle of the action, in order to accommodate the different job functions that make up their organization.

Martha Coe, chief administrative officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says their offices were designed in just this way.

“There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

2. Provide Privacy


At the Russell Index Group, some employees don’t even claim permanent desks. They call themselves “free deskers,” meaning that they sit wherever feels most comfortable for the particular day and task at hand.

Employees seem to enjoy the freedom and collaboration that this provides, but some admit that not having a permanent home can be a challenge, especially if they’re on a deadline or preparing for a big client meeting.

The Gates Foundation solves this problem by adding private areas, like the “diving boards” at the end of each hallway. Surrounded by glass on three sides, these areas offer stunning views of Seattle, lots of natural light — and a little bit of alone time in a busy open office.

3. Seat the CEO out in the Open


Also at the Russell Index Group, the CEO sits with everyone else. There are no fancy, private offices. (Although the big guy does have a special sign, designating his seating area as the “office of the CEO.”)

Ron Bundy, CEO, says that this has pretty much eliminated squabbling over office space, as well as the idea of the “office as a status symbol.”

“The big benefit is that there’s a whole host of really talented informal leaders in the building, and they have an opportunity to shine and have more of an impact,” he says. “This has really opened up opportunities for people without formal titles.”

Images: The New York Times.

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