The Open Office Blog, Pt. 2: Making It Work

Architectural Privacy = Psychological Privacy, Shown to Increase Workplace Satisfaction.

Why, then, do 70% of workspaces report utilizing some form of the open office plan? We want to examine what works, what doesn’t, and what the future holds for everyone’s favorite floor plan to hate. This is part 2 in a series, where we’re going to explore what individuals & organizations can do to make open office layouts work – click here to read part 1 (pros & cons), or here to read part 3 (the future).

How Individuals Can Make the Best of Open Office Layouts

Though you may feel the open office is something to endure, even the most introverted have created an experience in which they can thrive. While buying a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones seems like an easy out, avoidance is counterproductive to really thriving in open office layouts. The key here is adapting: not the ability to adapt, but the awareness of and willingness to adjust your habits to fit your work environment.

Allocate Private Time

Book a Meeting Room and Don’t Invite Anyone

As long as there are no rules against it, a change of pace with a new, quieted environment under your coworkers’ assumption that you should not be bothered while in your “meeting” is a refreshing break from the regular routine.

Go to Lunch By Yourself

Pressure on social interactions and feeling like a hermit might make this one seem strange, but your stress will snowball if you don’t take the time to reflect privately.

One Workplace Headquarters in Santa Clara, CA

Establish Privacy and Routine

Create a “Do Not Disturb” Signal

Let others know not to interrupt with a glaringly obvious indicator, but make sure to communicate the meaning of your signal. Do not be too off-putting or passive aggressive with your message.

Psychological Space

Make the most of the partitions that exist, or create your own! Don’t block out the rest of the workplace and perform contrary to the open-office concept, but figure out a way to define a space such that feeling vulnerable isn’t impacting your productivity.

Work In Healthy Personal Habits

This should be more than obvious, but when you find that down-time you should use it wisely. Go for a stroll, talk to your peers, or pay a visit to a personal, secluded retreat.

Minimalist Privacy in an Open Office Layout

How Organizations Can Make Open Office Layouts Better

The theoretical benefits of the open office make sense to invest in. Organizations that engage employees and consciously develop their culture yield 150% higher EPS and 516% higher income. Theoretically, creating a flexible space that encourages collaboration will foster camaraderie and culture in your workplace, which will in turn positively impact the productivity and retention of employees. The key seems to be for organizations to inform their design with organizational culture, and not the other way around. Mimicking the moves of innovators can only go so far, and can create misalignment if that’s not what your organization needs. However, it can be done. Here are some ways to create an open office that achieves it’s desired outcomes:

Provide Options & Autonomy

Combination of Spaces

Consider the need for spaces to work together, to work independently, and to interact casually, just to name a few. Also, provide options for employees from mobile seating, seating alternatives, etc. Keeping employees enthusiastic and engaged will increase productivity and well-being in your work environment.

Don’t Assign Seating

Workspaces need to rise to the day’s challenge, and the concept of the personal desk is evidently dying. A shift to a mobile workforce is on the rise, and the workplace needs to accommodate Remote Work. In addition, the space should foster a perceived Sense of Privacy for employees when undivided focus is called upon for a task.

Charles Infante LA Office

Be Proactive!


Recognize different work styles and build zones for each of them such that you strike an effective balance by reaching a consensus on what they need.


Sound-proofing and absorption, some greenery, natural light…all important boosters to morale and productivity. Get smart about sustainability and add to your cost savings with automatic lighting, temperature control and more.


It’s hard to have a workplace at either end of the noise spectrum. Invest in instant messaging apps, headphones, etc. for your workers to head off as many unnecessary distractions as possible.

People don’t want to be cooped up, nor Exposed. What DO People Want?

All of the contrary evidence surrounding the open office concept indicates that the results are subjective, and we’ll probably only depart from workspaces that feel like “climbing inside a migraine” if we talk more about what works than what we found wrong. Exploring options for your own space? Let’s start the conversation about why you love, hate, or just desperately want to stop hearing about the open office. Or, click below to see a selection of open office plan idea starters we’ve put together!

See Open Office Idea Starters!
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