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Today’s modern workforce has different expectations for their office environments. From benching to bleachers, open office planning has become a popular way for employers to maximize space and take advantage of mobility trends that are defining a new generation of employees.

The walls are coming down (both literally and figuratively) as people have less need for separation, and employers have more need to efficiently manage office space.

New benching systems augment these popular “open office” concepts by allowing people to sit together on the same row, and often, across from each other. This requires a new way of thinking about productivity and how your office works together.

We now live in a collaborative world.
With changes in technology and social media specifically, we want to do things faster and share more.  An open space environment allows for working side-by-side with a colleague, thereby encouraging greater lines of communication. Studies have even shown that privacy and fixed-desk seating is less important than the ability to quickly accomplish tasks.

Further, giving employees the freedom to work from any terminal with a connection to your network, makes the office more flexible for ad-hoc project teams and needs-based relocation.

According to a three-year research project conducted by UCLA, companies who modified their business processes to encourage collaboration and moved from private spaces to collaborative environments realized performance increases (speed and accuracy of work) averaging 440%.

Research also suggests that younger workers are more interested in learning from their peers and more experienced workers than are older employees. Open space environments allow for this valued interaction. [source: Open Plan and Enclosed Private Offices (Knoll)]

While open office plans are not a one-size-fits-all solution that works well in every environment, there are valid reasons to consider it:

Open Space Accommodates for Change.
As a new generation enters the workforce, their work styles vary greatly and their technology requirements change frequently. Meaning the move to an open office plan might make sense to manage these changes, while greatly reducing the cost of change to the business.

Open Space Encourages Communication and a Sense of Community.
It might make sense to ‘tear down the walls’ where people need to interact most frequently. This allows for higher productivity and a way for everyone to feel like they are on a team working towards the same goals.

Open Space Increases Mobility and Transparency.
There is no longer a need for employees to feel tied to their desks or hidden away in a corner. As we move away from desktop computers and toward laptops, an open office plan can provide greater flexibility to work wherever it makes sense for the current project.

Open Space Support Training and Mentoring.
Along with the need for transparency comes the need to support education in the workplace. Along with enhanced communication, comes the opportunity to turn your office into an environment where employees can learn from each other more effectively.

What are your thoughts on the open office concept?