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How to Make the Open Office Plan Work

Saturday, October 20, 2018

By Sukhdeep Aurora, Chief People Officer - ANAROCK Property Consultants
 
The best companies attract the best talent, but the best talent also knows its value and will always have its sights on even better opportunities. This is why a top-ranking company will focus on employee retention at least as much as on acquiring right talent.

The fact that the best talent will be the most productive is more or less a given – that’s why they are the best. A company’s most productive employees will bring personal accountability and ownership to their work, so they know that their productivity is closely interlinked with their own career growth within the firm.

However, it goes without saying that an organization must also do everything it can to foster not only employee productivity but also satisfaction and a sense of being valued, and ‘belonging’. One of the primary means of doing this is by providing an enabling workplace environment. Adopting an open office plan can be one of the best ways of achieving this.
 
Getting the Equation Right
Getting the open office equation right helps employees to feel unrestricted and simultaneously encourages productive interactions. Getting it wrong results in demotivated, unenthusiastic and downright resentful employees.

In the first place, it is important to understand that open office may not be the best model for every type of business. For instance, employees of software companies - particularly those focused on the gaming and KPO verticals - and banking firms may not necessarily thrive in such an environment.

However, the open office plan is ideal for companies whose business model is essentially consultative and collaborative. For example, let us take the real estate consultancy business. A lot of the work which happens in a successful real estate consultancy is, almost by definition, consultancy based.

The consulting aspect is not merely an outward function related to clients, but also an inward-focused dynamic involving the free exchange of knowledge and information.
The open office plan works precisely in this manner – it encourages interaction, teamwork and the free flow of information. These are critical ingredients for success in a real estate consultancy.
 
Essential Success Ingredients
A company must ensure that the adoption of the open office plan does not involve congested pockets but a due level of personal space. Simply jamming large populations together without any particular plan, merely to yield as many workspaces as possible, is rarely anything but counter-productive.

The plan must be a welcoming one, and for this, spaciousness and the right facilities for different functions to deliver on their assigned work are de rigueur.
 
From 'Closed' to 'Open - Overcoming Change Resistance
The open office plan requires a change of mindset for everyone coming from a background of traditional office setups. The senior leadership must lead by example by being the first and quickest to adapt. Many new firms today began with the open office plan. However, many employees – including senior management – tend to come from a traditional office environment.

Throwing everyone into the water and assuming that they will swim because there is no other option is not the right way of approaching the inevitable change resistance. It is important that the company creates sufficient awareness about the undoubted benefits of the open office layout.

The Human Resources team can achieve much of this task at the time of recruitment, and this would be an ongoing process in a constantly growing firm. Audio-visuals which explain the open office philosophy in general and the specific layout in this company, in particular, can be very useful in helping new employees to grasp its purposes and benefits.

The idea should not be to enforce a rigid system but to create a wholesome, dynamic work environment which can change according to evolving needs.

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