Open offices are becoming a new standard for office buildings around the world. No longer are workers tied to cubicles and stuffy offices. For many businesses, open layouts foster greater creativity and collaboration, at a fraction of the average office expense.
But closed office layouts are not without their benefits. While open spaces are great for networking, some may prefer to work in private or to have their own personal space.
The office layout you choose matters. We’ll compare the two popular office options, weigh their costs and benefits, and suggest which type of office your business should choose.
What is an open office layout?
An open office layout (also known as an open-plan office) refers to an office space design that removes boundaries between two workers, such as cubicles or walls. While there may still be private offices and conference rooms, the goal of an open office layout is to cultivate a greater sense of collaboration and creativity within a team.
Over the past decade, the open office design has become a worldwide movement. From budding startups to major companies such as Facebook and Google, open office layouts have come to define the modern business. Business software and services company, Sage, estimates that 80% of US businesses use open offices as their preferred arrangement.
What is a closed office layout?
In contrast, a closed office layout is a type of office that is secluded from other offices by a wall or cubicle. Employees in a closed office have more privacy and greater control over their work environment.
While closed office layouts were popular before the 2000s, they have gradually been replaced by open office layouts. This is because of a number of factors, including rising monthly rates and changing mentalities in the office.
Pros and Cons of an Open Office
- Quicker communication – Open office layouts make it easy to ask simple questions or hold impromptu meetings. Some companies will even have its employees share the same table.
- Greater collaboration – With quicker communication comes more collaboration. The design of the space empowers employees to work together on projects.
- Cost-effective – Compared to a traditional office space lease, open office plans manage to save on space as well as money. Businesses can then use those savings towards marketing or operations.
- Background noise – Open offices can occasionally be frantic environments (particularly during the morning and afternoon). For those that need silence, the background noise can be a source of distraction.
- Lack of privacy – If you need to talk about sensitive or confidential information, an open office is not the place to do so. Nearby workers may overhear your conversations or see your laptop screen if it’s left unlocked and unattended.
Pros and Cons of a Closed Office
- Privacy – One of the main reasons for renting a close office is to protect your valuable belongings and information. Particularly for businesses in the financial, law, or healthcare industries, security is vital.
- Personalization – Private offices allow companies to brand the walls, doors, and desks with their own colors and imagery. Customizing the look of an office can have a major impact on an employee’s creativity and work ethic.
- Productivity – Although not true for everyone, many workers are more productive when they have a controlled, private environment. Private offices cut out environmental distractions (except the ones on a computer screen, or outside a window).
- Lack of interaction – Closed offices can cut people off from other companies or team members. Employees tend to stay and work in their offices for most of the day, and can lead to isolating experiences.
- Financial commitment – Private office companies can charge steeper prices, or demand yearly contracts (but Novel Coworking does not). For startups and small businesses, this can be a setback in the day-to-day operations.
How to choose an office layout for your business
Each company has a different culture and function. What may work well for one company is not guaranteed to work for another. With that said, some office layouts are more suitable for certain work processes.
Choose an open office layout if your company needs to communicate clearly and save money. This is especially crucial for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups. Open offices encourage greater teamwork and more creative solutions.
Choose a closed office layout if your company deals in sensitive information or your employees need privacy. Closed offices are also important for C-level executives and entrepreneurs that want to impress a professional image on their clients.
For a more in-depth comparison of the benefits of both closed and open office layouts, visit Novel Coworking’s plans page.
How physical environment impacts productivity
Our environment influences our mood and actions. For this reason, the design of our work environment greatly impacts our productivity and performance. Since so much of our time is spent working, our office space ought to be healthy, positive, and comfortable enough to spur creativity.
The most well-designed office spaces are effective at driving performance and encouraging collaboration. Workplace management solutions Serraview even found that innovative companies are “5 times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize individual and group workspace”. If your company’s work is dependent on teamwork and collaboration, this post will explain how a collaborative workspace can help.
What is a collaborative workspace?
A collaborative workspace is a type of office design that fosters efficient communication and feedback between two or more people. Some examples include shared office spaces, open coworking spaces, and even conference rooms. These collaborative spaces often feature close seating with clear lines of sight. The goal is to get people to have quick, impromptu conversations, which inevitably help solve problems faster.
What are the benefits of creating a collaborative workspace?
Clear communication – Relying on email and text can frequently result in miscommunication. Sometimes instructions or context can be unclear. Other times, noise can disrupt a message’s intent- such as internet lag, time difference, or difference in typing habits.
Encourage collaboration – As the name implies, these types of workspaces are great for teams and group work. By breaking down barriers like walls and computers, you promote healthier, more productive discussions.
Greater sense of community – Remote workers are on the rise, but nothing says community like working together in person. Having coworkers and teammates to talk to in between projects and meetings can be the best way to break the monotony of the daily grind.
Long-term wellness – Collaborating in an open workspace does wonders for the team’s spirit and morale. With clearer communication and stronger camaraderie, going to work doesn’t feel like such a chore.
Tips on creating a more collaborative and productive workspace
There’s no such thing as the “best office layout”, but there are a few ways you can improve an existing workspace to give your productivity a boost.
Create more flexibility and mobility. Ditch the cubicles and rigid office layouts and embrace the open space. Let your team move around if they want to by creating space to work side by side, opposite each other, or in private nooks.
Reduce the noise level. If you can, take out anything that contributes to a noisy environment. Seal windows and doors, and replace loud computers and fans. With fewer sound distractions, your team will be more comfortable while speaking to each other.
Use humidifiers and scents to improve the air quality. Make sure air is able to circulate through the room, so no one feels stuffy. Keep an eye on the thermostat as well, as temperature can have similar effects on productivity.
Maximize your natural light. For many computer users, the light from lamps and monitors is enough to brighten the whole room, but it doesn’t have the same effect as sunlight. Whenever possible, open up blinds to let in more light, or encourage walks outside. Daylight can have a major impact on one’s mood.
Team up on decorations, but inject some personality. Your workspace is essentially your second home. It may even seem like you spend less time at your actual residence. Decorate it the way you would want to decorate your personal space. While different decors are proven to be more effective, it’s up to you to design your personal workspace in a way that boosts your productivity and reflects your values as an entrepreneur. Everything from the color palette around you to the type of chair you sit in has a measurable effect. Personalize your workspace the way you see fit.
Don’t forget, clients will also see your workspace—and they’ll certainly judge it. It’s no secret that people prefer pleasant aesthetics. Clients are no different. The less legitimate your office appears to them, the less likely you’re going to win their business. Legitimacy comes in many forms, too – your office should reflect values that line up with the values of your clients. Your workspace doesn’t exist to merely ignite purpose in yourself; it also serves to reassure clients that they are in good hands.
Care about the place you spend so much of your time working in, as it is ultimately a reflection on you. Various aesthetic choices speak volumes – are you a modern business? Your office should reflect as much.
Explore creative solutions to a collaborative workspace through Novel Coworking.
Twenty years ago, all the employees of a company had to work in the same offices at the same time. Today, businesses rely on remote individuals, often from different continents and time zones.
Of course, this strategy does require some degree of management to ensure that tasks are being completed on time and to a satisfactory standard. The following tips can help to make sure that remote working becomes a valuable benefit to both the company and their remote employees.
Difference Between On-site vs. Remote Team Management
Remote work makes economic sense. Staffing costs are not as expensive in certain regions. Businesses can take advantage of this to outsource certain tasks and projects overseas, helping reduce the upkeep of the company.
Productivity and work-life balance
Before the day ends, teams in one timezone can pass on their work to another team in a different timezone. This means that a business can have 24-hour work cycles while ensuring everyone gets the rest they need. For software or web development, this helps teams save valuable time while keeping morale high.
Culture and communication challenges
Remote teams will ultimately face challenges in communication and culture building. Since the remote workers may log on from their own home office, there isn’t the same sense of solidarity that may be found through face to face interaction. Slow internet connections or limited technology may also result in unclear communication between the two teams.
1. Ensure that Everyone Understands the Expectations
At the start of any project or task, give clear verbal and written instructions, while setting deadlines and checkpoints along the way. Ensure that your employees understand what is expected of them. In the initial phases of employment contact should be frequent. This does not mean micromanaging, but you need to be certain that your employees are completing the tasks to a satisfactory standard. Good software can be the key here, try using a project management tool such as Wrike.
2. Be Available and Encourage an Open Communication Policy
Consider some method of secure communication such as Skype, and encourage all managers to communicate regularly. If there is a query, it is important that the remote workers have the confidence to ask questions to clarify that question, rather than waste hours completing the task incorrectly.
3. Make an Effort to Get to Know Your Staff on an Individual Basis
If you employ staff in an office, there are office meals, parties, and other social events, which enable everyone to form a more personal relationship. This encourages teamwork and gives a sense of belonging to all members of the team. When you are hiring remote workers, this is likely not an option, so it is important to put additional effort into building a relationship. By showing an interest in their personal lives, you will build up a good working rapport, and increase the loyalty of the employee to the company. This will pay dividends many times over, and its value cannot be underestimated.
4. Make All of Your Employees Feel Like Part of the Team
It can be very difficult to fully embrace all of your team if 50 percent of them are halfway around the world. Do everything in your power to empower and embrace all members of your team. Little things such as asking for their opinion on a topic can go a long way towards making them feel valued and included. And it is entirely possible that they will have some excellent ideas that will benefit the project.
Want to learn more about finding the best candidates for your team? Read our previous blog post on recruiting top talent.
5. Make Use of Video Communication When Possible
While text and instant messages can be excellent communication tools, it is entirely possible to misinterpret a message in text form. Wherever possible embrace video technology such as Skype or Facebook Messenger to fully interact with and communicate with your staff. This way you will build rapport and, just as importantly, build a relationship with your staff.
6. Remember and Celebrate Birthdays
Just as you might celebrate a birthday in the office, log all of your employee’s birthdays in Outlook, or some other calendar software. Then you will automatically be reminded of team birthdays to celebrate. While this may seem a small thing, it will demonstrate to your staff that you are taking an interest in them and make them feel special. This, in turn, will ensure they feel valued and an important part of the team. It might only take a few minutes, but it can have a huge impact on your business.
Successful Companies with Remote Teams
Remote teams are nothing new. In fact, some of the world’s biggest brands were built with remote teams. Trello, the free project management tool, was built with a “remote first” mentality, meaning the team should always default to accommodate remote workers. You never want them to feel left out. Basecamp is famous for being one of the earliest remote teams back in 1999. Their reputation became so noteworthy that they even wrote the book, REMOTE: Office Not Required, an Amazon bestseller.
The most successful companies understand the key factors that go into growing a remote team. They see the challenges in communication and teamwork, but rise above through the offering of unique perks and incentives, just like Trello and Basecamp. If you want your digital nomads to work effectively, you need to learn to listen and act on their feedback.
Managing a team of workers remotely doesn’t have to be any more difficult than managing a local team. It may require utilizing different skills and make more effort to connect with the remote workers, but the benefits can far outweigh any minor issues. Provided you complete your due diligence and employ a great team of people, hiring remote workers can be a huge boon to your company.
Visit Novel Coworking today to learn how coworking spaces can provide a neutral ground for remote workers.
Office Space Planning Explained
There’s a saying that goes: “good design is invisible, but bad design is everywhere.” The same applies to office spaces. Well-designed offices can limit distractions and inefficiencies, helping you focus on your work.
Space Planning is the process of designing how a space is to be used and experienced before it is actually created. In terms of designing an office, space planning can help identify unused space, barriers to movement, and areas for utilities like computers or coffee machines.
The Importance of Space Planning
Space planning isn’t limited to offices – designers use space planning in the construction of homes, schools, government buildings and places of worship. Planning is essential to saving time and development costs during the formation of a space.
Planning can also help improve a person’s experience within the space, whether they’re a client stopping by for a consult, or an actual employee that will be spending most of their day in that office. As we’ve explored in the past, well-designed spaces can improve team communication and productivity.
6 Things to Consider in an Office Space Plan – According to Experts
Your company may be large enough to dictate the space’s layout, or you may only have control over the furniture arrangement of the office. Whatever the case may be, your office space plan will still have a significant impact on your work’s efficiency and quality.
Here are a few suggestions for how you can optimize your office space:
1. Choose colors wisely
One of those invisible elements of office design is the color palette. Even though you may not stare at the walls continuously, different colors can create a different impact. Design psychologist Sally Augustin believes office colors should be chosen according to the company’s work: blue shades offer a greater sense of tranquility, while red shades suggest a sense of activity.
2. Use both natural and synthetic light
Office spaces should have a combination of sunlight and electrical lights like CFL and LED bulbs. Light is essential to navigating and using our workspaces, but it can also be the source of headaches and eye strain. Make sure desks are outfitted with lamps for when the office gets dark, and windows are large enough to allow sunlight even on cloudy days.
3. Create spaces to relax and decompress
Paul Kelly, head of marketing for office design firm Morgan Lovell, suggests creating separate areas from workstations and desks. These spaces can help team members discuss and think differently than if they were to stay in front of their laptop or computer. “Create non-bookable break-out spaces for those informal chats or just a change of scenery,” Kelly says, “these spaces take down barriers to communication and encourage spontaneity in the office.”
4. Add more plants and flowers
The University of Exeter believes that “green offices” not only make the place look more pleasant, but can actually improve concentration and worker experience. Plants can help clean up the air quality of the office, can break up the monotony of computers and gray walls, and indirectly increase worker productivity by 15%. Experiment with simple desk plants like bonsai trees, cactus, or even larger potted plants like the Yucca or Kentia palm.
5. Offer a degree of personalization
Despite your best efforts of designing a beautiful and efficient workplace, there’s only so much you can do to empower your employees. The rest will come from their own feedback and experiences. Allow your team to decorate, adjust, and rearrange as they see fit. According to HBR, when people have more control over their space, it creates a greater sense of identity.
6. Rearrange furniture to maximize flow and utility
Don’t block important equipment like printers and computers. Tuck away any loose cords or cables. Create a movement path from the door to the main office areas. Everyone should be able to move through the office without being obstructed or injured.
Office design is vital in creating a healthy and efficient work environment. To learn more about how coworking can accomplish all these considerations and more, visit Novel Coworking.
Why you should care about workplace trends
2019 is in full swing, and that means it’s time again for businesses to revisit their strategy. Each year, new innovations and market changes force traditional workplaces to change and adapt accordingly. By staying up to date with the latest workplace trends, small businesses continue to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
We asked some of our clients what they predicted would make a major impact on the workplace, particularly for small businesses. Here’s what they said.
1. The end of the nine-to-five routine.
Modern employees are looking for a more flexible alternative to the traditional nine-to-five workday. It’s no longer uncommon to see employees taking 4-day work weeks, coming in later during the day, or even working from home. “While 9-5 may have made sense for factory life,” said Novel Coworking client and career coach Gina Marotta, “it is less realistic for humans whose work involves sharing their brain power and creativity.”
“Professionals often work better and stay happier and more balanced when they can spread out their work hours in a way that works best for their own natural rhythm and lifestyle.”
2. Shared offices and coworking spaces
As commercial real estate property values continue to skyrocket, coworking spaces will continue to provide a financial advantage for small businesses. Not only can coworking spaces provide all the same amenities and benefits of traditional office spaces, but they even offer some unique advantages over traditional offices, such as the promise of collaboration and unique networking events.
In 2019, expect coworking spaces to expand throughout other major metro areas, and for small businesses to eschew the traditional office building in favor of something more modern, open, and collaborative.
3. Gen Z workers entering the workforce
Time to make room for the next generation of workers. Gen Z covers anyone born between 1996 and 2010, and according to Bloomberg, Gen Z will comprise 32 percent of the global population, eclipsing millennials as the largest generation.
Gen Zers were born and raised on smartphones and social media. Compared to millennials, Gen Z is understood to be more self-aware, more able to naturally “create their own solutions.” Based on research by Nielsen, “Gen Z are bombarded with messages and are a generation that can quickly detect whether or not something is relevant to them.” Businesses will need to learn how to best adapt to this incoming generation.
4. Artificial intelligence to automate more work
As the Super Bowl LIII commercials made abundantly clear, robots and AI have become part of everyday life. Once considered a sci-fi pipe dream, artificial intelligence has become an important component of modern business.
AI is currently being used to help small businesses in a number of ways: from collecting and analyzing complex sets of data, to 24-hour customer service. McKinsey & Company estimates that AI has the potential to generate “$3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in value annually across nine business functions in 19 industries.”
5. Culture and benefits
Across all industries and businesses, workers are in search of companies with an engaging culture and work-life balance. Employees need reassurances that they are respected and that the company has noble values and goals. In a Glassdoor survey, 87 percent of employees “expect their employer to support them” in their work-life commitments.
Whether it’s creating a healthier work environment or adding valuable benefits like paid time off, small businesses that take the time to genuinely help and listen to their employees will see the change in their performance.
How to modernize your workplace
The workplace is almost like a second home for the people inside a company. Employees spend a majority of their waking life at work, either in the office or at a coworking space, so it’s important for companies to create an environment of acceptance and productivity.
Inspire your team members to take on some stress-relieving hobbies.
And get inspired to decorate your office.
Modern businesses have witnessed the rise of a major phenomenon in the past decade: remote working, or “working from home”. Portable devices and cloud-based software have allowed just about anybody to work from anywhere.
Remote working has introduced a variety of benefits and challenges, for both employers and employees. We’ll cover both perspectives, the positives and negatives, and a few tips for deciding if it’s right for you.
The employer’s perspective
Happier workforce, less attrition – A study from Global Workplace Analytics has shown that on average, two-thirds of employees would like to work from home, and 36% would choose remote working over a pay raise. Allowing employees to work from home can also reduce employee attrition, with 95% of employers claiming it has a high impact on retention.
Creates positive brand perceptions – Remote workers, particularly millennials, consider the ability to work from anywhere one of the biggest perks a modern company can offer. From a PR perspective, offering remote work can generate all kinds of positive buzz. Employees are more likely to speak highly of their company when they are afforded a certain level of flexibility.
A more diverse talent pool – If employers want to bring more unique and creative perspectives, they need to search outside their usual recruitment methods. For starters, hiring remote workers can open up the talent pool to new mothers, offshore developers, or even professionals in transition periods.
Reduces overhead costs – Office space, heating, lighting, electricity, Internet… there are a dozen different costs associated with having an employee work on-site. By having employees work from home, businesses can expect to save tremendously. One example cited in Forbes claimed to save roughly $78 million per year. Some remote businesses have even begun using virtual offices, which affords them a prestigious business address, mailing services, and meeting space.
Inhibits collaboration and communication – When employees work from home, all communication is done through email, Slack, or group video chats. While that’s not inherently a negative, the lack of a physical presence can result in slow dialogues or even miscommunication, especially if remote workers have a poor Internet connection.
Introduces new security concerns – Employees that work from home may be accessing sensitive company information from unsecured networks or compromised devices. Without tech support present, it can be difficult to gauge just how safe a remote employee is from being compromised.
Reduces employee accountability – Since remote workers aren’t constantly being supervised, there’s much less pressure to actively focus and complete certain tasks. When you throw in the comfort of one’s home in the mix, it’s very likely that remote workers won’t always be working on the clock.
The employee’s perspective
Creates a better work-life balance – Even when employees are only given one day to work from home, it can have a tremendous impact on how one juggles work and home life. It can also help reduce the stress that results from a frantic office environment.
No commute – Whether workers drive to work or take public transit, getting up early, paying for gas or train fare, and then sitting in traffic (or standing in a crowded carriage) can be a rough way to start the day. No commute means employees can start working almost immediately, and they may even save money while they’re at it.
Eco-friendly – No commute also means no pollution. Carbon emissions from vehicle traffic are one of the major contributors to air pollution and can lead to various health risks. Working from home is a safer and greener option.
Instills a sense of employee autonomy – Without a supervisor to micromanage every single decision or action, employees have greater freedom to own their work process, and even their appearance.
Prone to home distractions – Remote workers may be free from office distractions, but not from distractions in their own home. It might be something important, such as some pipes that need maintenance, a garden that needs cutting, or pets that need tending. Other times it can be completely trivial- like wanting to watch Netflix or meet up with friends.
IT Infrastructure dependent – In an office, employees already have computers, Internet connections, printers, scanners, and software installed. In remote settings, some of that will have to be manually set up by the employee, which can create situations where some employees have better connections and experiences than others.
Overworking and burnout – The danger of working from home is that you might end up working after office hours. It’s important to create a system in order to distinguish your work responsibilities from your home life.
Is working from home right for you?
It takes a certain personality and character to work from home efficiently. For some, working from home can feel liberating, for others, it can stunt productivity. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Can you work at home without getting constantly distracted? – Getting sidetracked every once in a while happens to everyone. However, if you’re easily distracted from completing your work on time, working from home could be a challenge.
- Do you have a working computer and a stable internet connection? – Without an office, you’ll be expected to set up an adequate workstation to get all your tasks accomplished.
- Can you draw the line between work and home? – Some people take their work home with them, and never stop working. Can you turn off the work notifications past a certain time?
- Can you stay responsive to the rest of your team? – Working from home can sometimes make you feel like you’re on your own timeline, isolated from the rest of the team. It’s important to schedule regroups and even video chats every once in a while.
The Importance of a Physical Workplace
Have you ever tried working while laying in bed or relaxing on the couch? You’ll find that you get much less work done. Whether your employees work from home or on-site, it’s vital that they have a set space for their office supplies and equipment. Not only does it create a more organized work environment, but it’ll help establish a more productive and professional mindset.
Novel Coworking offers competitive plans for remote workers, as well as those who prefer a traditional office space.
Learn about the benefits of coworking spaces.