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Office Atmosphere – Part 1

In today’s world, there are a plenty of resources open to you and your business that grant you extended flexibility in the way in which your businesses day to day operations can be ran. In this article we will analyze the pros and cons of open vs closed office furniture. Whether that be actual physical resources, or non-tangible assets such as ideas and experiences there seems to be no ceiling to what can be done. How do you look through all the information though without knowing what option is best for you? Yes, you could try them all, but in business time is money and it’s not good practice to waste either. Luckily you don’t have to because the internet is filled with people who will do that for you and report back the results!

It’s the little things you do every day that improve your quality of life in the long run. Goals such as eating breakfast and laughing more often can provide the change necessary to live a happier life and improve your well being. In this series, we will be looking at the ins and outs of office ergonomics and what the pros and cons are of the different options available. We will be looking at everything from how workstation setup can affect productivity to temperature and how it can affect employee motivation. We, here at Tri-State Office Furniture, have took the liberty of looking through a series of academic studies and articles and will report the findings so that your business can take a lucrative step that could take your business to the next level. Now look no further while we introduce our first topic to you…

*Open Vs. Closed Office furniture*

Here’s the deal, you’re a CEO and you just hired 50 new employees so you decide that it’s time to make the decision of moving office locations. While discussing how the new office atmosphere should be set up your human resources team brings up a lot of good things to consider, one of which is an open vs. closed office environment. During a meeting one of your team members tells you ceothat a closed office furniture is the best decision because it allows for the employees to stay concentrated and avoid distractions. Meanwhile, another one of your team members is telling you that an open office is the best choice because it facilitates communication of ideas between employees. How do you make this decision though?

Well, there are a couple things to consider while making this decision. The first of which has to do with being task oriented. As a leader, sometimes it is important to look back at your organization and remember what the goals are you want to achieve. It is believed that the open office work environment can rip down the metaphorical wall between co-workers and increase communication between individuals, groups, and even departments and as a result, improve morale and increase productivity. Depending on how demanding the job is and what is required of it, you need to decide what will be the best option to give your employees the privacy they need, along with the motivation to keep improving. For example, QBE Canada a business insurance specialist group found that when they removed the cubicle walls their employees began to talk and collaborate unprompted. This was an important change in their businesses atmosphere because as an insurance company it was important for them to account for all sorts of risk and the open office space allowed and encouraged for employees to share information to find a resolution to a client’s situation1. open office furnitureThey reported that this was more obvious while working with an unnamed North American contractor that required a more holistic view of the company’s risk because it encompassed property, casualty auto, and professional liability. For QBE, this change worked because they knew what they needed to accomplish and an open office environment assisted in reaching their goals.

Like mentioned in our previous blogs, the second thing to consider is one of your two most important assets, people. The setup of your office space can be one of the driving motivators to what your employees achieve every day at work and can affect their happiness in the long run. Therefore, making sure they are comfortable is well worth your time. If you need any more convincing to put your employees first, Jim Goodnight the CEO of SAS industries an analytics software company once said “If you treat employees as if they make a difference in the company, they will make a difference.” This means that if you put your employees first, they will put your customers first. Mary Zalesny and Richard Farace are two tested academics from the University of Missouri and Michigan State University respectively. They did a study on this exact matter where they took a satisfaction survey before the move, after the move, and six months after the move where they asked employees involved how they felt about their office environment. In the study, they reported that employees who were moved from a traditional (closed) office space, to an open office space claimed their new work station was less adequate and came with more distractions2. Of course, not all reports of the open office are negative and the problems reported are not the same, but it is something to consider while making this decision. If you’re wondering how to approach this dilemma, try giving your employees a survey and ask how they feel about the office environment now and ask what they might like to see changed to try and improve the office environment further.

closed office furnitureThis is where the open office vs closed office furniture debate comes into play. Some argue that an open office is helpful and increases worker collaboration and productivity and others argue that this isn’t the case and that the open office space negatively affects employee mood and productivity. What are these claims based off? For one of course there is bias which is behind any view in one way or another, but there is also research behind the feud. For example, the belief that the open office will facilitate communication is derived from the social facilitation hypothesis, which states that the performance of routine tasks will improve in non-private areas. The belief states that employees who find their job boring may find that contact with other people provides a source of stimulation and by default improves how they perceive their job3. Meanwhile, the group who says the open office space negatively affects employees say that initially moving to an open office space will only increase interactions for a short period of time before they revert back to their earlier behavior and create ways to regulate their social contact. What is the right option though? Well it all comes down to your company’s culture and what is right for you. In other words, your company needs to be its metaphorical self and do what will better it in the long run. This may seem like a vanilla answer, but it’s a situational dilemma that is bestowed upon you as a leader. Remember though, you are not alone because you have a network of people in your company to discuss the pros and cons of each decision for your company specifically.

This is not the only situation to discuss on this topic there are plenty of more scientific based arguments to discuss. Next blog we will be looking at how having individual control over your environment can empower and motivate your employees. This will lead us further into our discussion about the open vs closed office furniture debate and further analyze the pros and cons of each.

By. Dylan Edmonds

COMING UP NEXT BLOG: Stimulation control and employee productivity

References:

  1. Gudeon, Chris. “Breaking Down the (Cubicle) Walls.”Canadian Underwriter79.8 (2012): 46-48. Web. 31 May 2017.
  2. Zalesny, M. D., and R. V. Farace. “Traditional Versus Open Offices: A Comparison Of Sociotechnical, Social Relations, And Symbolic Meaning Perspectives.”Academy of Management Journal30.2 (1987): 240-59. Web. 31 May 2017.
  3. Brennan, A., J. S. Chugh, and T. Kline. “Traditional versus Open Office Design: A Longitudinal Field Study.”Environment and Behavior34.3 (2002): 279-99. Web. 31 May 2017.

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