Create Trust and Transparency With Your Office Design

 The traditional way of conducting business is rapidly changing, largely in response to the technological and cultural shift caused by the both the increased influence of the Internet and the rise of a new generation in the workplace.  As neckties give way to hoodies and formal meetings make way for informal brainstorming sessions, one major trend is making a huge impact on the way businesses interact with their employees: the demand for transparency.

Transparency in the workplace manifests itself in several ways.  Regularly sharing open and honest information about company performance and goals, providing regular feedback and updates on projects, and creating a safe space for employees to share concerns and ideas are all important aspects of a transparent workplace.  Even some of the “fluffier” work trends, like casual dress codes and flexible schedules, are a manifestation of this desire for transparency at work.  At its heart, the demand for workplace transparency is an expression of the need for trust, respect, and understanding.  Employees devote a huge percentage of their prime years to the workplace, so it should be no surprise that in return they are now asking to be treated as trusted adults with human needs, rather than as professional simulacra simply there to perform a job.

Most companies are recognizing the value of transparency, not only to employee happiness but also to the company’s performance.  Employees who understand the goals and direction of a project are more able to engage themselves in the work required to achieve those goals.  Having more people in possession of vital information means more minds are available to formulate creative solutions to problems or offer suggestions for improvements.  Creating a safe space for employees to talk about challenges and concerns gives managers an opportunity to identify logistical problems, like workflow management issues, before they become overwhelming and costly to fix.

Creating a transparent workplace environment largely relies on good communication habits, and the design of your office can help encourage these habits.  Whether you’re moving to a new office, opening a new business, or simply seeking an update to your current layout, keep these design ideas in mind to promote transparency in your workplace.

Say Goodbye to the Sprawling Corner Office

Spacious Corner Office

The first step to introducing more transparency to your office is to remove unnecessary barriers to communication.  The spacious corner office is an icon of the traditional workplace culture, but it is much more a status symbol than it is a functional use of space.  Unless you need to regularly meet with groups of clients (and the conference room isn’t a viable option), the spacious corner office as a status symbol merely creates an artificial divide between management and their teams.

To foster transparency and open communication, it’s better for managers to have office spaces that feel approachable and welcoming than to have spaces that remind visitors of their high level in the company.  There are a few options for achieving this goal in your office design, depending upon the responsibilities and needs of your managers.

A cubicle without a door will be one of the most inviting ways to welcome employees to have an open discourse with managers.  Cubicles can be placed in the center of the action on the floor, keeping management connected to the day-to-day activities of their employees more effectively than if they were sequestered in a corner office.  A manager’s cubicle can still be beautifully designed, like our Kimball wood trim used office cubicles, and it should be more spacious than a regular cubicle in order to comfortably seat one or two other employees for casual check-ins or quick brainstorming sessions.

For some managers, a door is non-negotiable, however.  They may need to have the ability to shut out visitors for brief periods of time in order to make important phone calls or meet clients without interruptions.  A door might also help employees feel more comfortable bringing forth concerns, knowing that they won’t be overheard by the whole office.  Our used Steelcase Montage offices with convenient pocket doors are an ideal fit for managers with a need for a little more privacy while maintaining transparency.  The doors can be left open unless privacy is required by an employee or client.  When the doors are closed, the glass walls allow employees to see why the manager is occupied while the insulated fabric panels keep conversations private.  These offices can also be placed in the middle of the team’s floor for easy access to management and more open flow of communication.

Design Natural Places for Employees to Congregate

Create areas for employees to congregate- Startup Stock Photos

Bloomberg, in their efforts to embrace transparency and communication in their offices, discovered the benefits of having places in the offices where people across the company meet and enjoy casual interactions. The break room doesn’t need to be the only place in your office where people from different departments can run into each other for casual chats.  Water coolers and coffee stations will draw employees from their desks throughout the day, so use them to make natural congregation spots for conversation and impromptu brainstorming.

Keep departments that could benefit from cross-communication near each other, and situate a water cooler or coffee station between them so that people from those departments are more likely to bump into each other every day.  To encourage conversation, try to give this space a sense of privacy, perhaps by laying out your cubicles in such a way to create a nook for this “refueling station.”

You can also make these nooks into small official “brain break” areas, and encourage employees to take a quick break to chat and get some space from whatever work problem they are facing.  Put some comfortable seating so multiple people can sit and talk about their projects, or just catch up with coworkers from other departments.

Create an Area for Public Brainstorming and Information

Create brainstorming areas for employees

One of the most direct ways you can use your office design to encourage transparency and communication is to create an accessible place for everyone in the office to see company news, success stories, and problems that need solving.  Try to position this information center somewhere where employees will see it frequently, like the break room, drink stations, or even outside of the bathrooms.

Having a specific place to display company news and information will help to communicate important updates and company goals without wasting time on extra meetings.  Including a space for the company and individual team leaders to post projects that require some extra ideas will help get outside perspective and generate more creative solutions.

With creative office design, you can help your managers and employees enjoy more effective communication and develop greater transparency in the workplace.  It can be a challenging task, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Arnold’s Office Furniture can provide you with affordable used cubicles and office furniture, and our professional design team can create a unique solution for your transparent office design.  Once you’ve approved the new layout of your office, we will deliver and install so you don’t need to worry about a thing.  Contact us to learn more or to get a free quote.

Photos via Ramon FVelasquez and Startup Stock Photos

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