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Maybe you've been keeping an eye on the example of all those Silicon Valley startups offering their staff bright and breezy open space offices. Everyone sharing the same space should boost collaboration, facilitate easy communication and generally reduce barriers to getting things done.

But could this office plan work for your business? What about the downsides of open offices: noise, interruptions and a sense of work being a free-for-all experience? If you execute your open office right, you can minimize the negatives and make your worksite more fun and productive.

Design a Space That Works for Your Business

Maybe the general idea's a good one, but you need to get down to applicable specifics. Consider how your company might be different. Maybe the physical constraints of your office don't lend themselves to the openness of space. Or maybe you don't need broad collaboration across the entire company but could use it in certain departments.

If you need collaboration mainly between marketing and sales, for example, you may want to design a space around this priority. Consider your overall and specific needs, design around them, then acquire the space that fits your plan.

Design Diverse Work Areas Inside Your Open Space

Everybody works a little differently. We each have different thresholds for noise, interruptions, and privacy intrusions. To meet the different needs and reduce the potential for workplace conflict, design one open space with diverse work areas within it.

Design spaces for those who need their quiet in order to focus and other spaces for those who like to move around and bounce ideas off others. Various settings and zones should make appealing work spaces for a variety of worker types.

Try these as options:

  • Designated desk space area
  • Breakout rooms for meetings and others with soft seating
  • Library space with couches
  • Call rooms with whiteboards
  • Table space for "eating meetings"

Encourage Clear Communication on Availability for Collaboration

An open space office works best with clearly-defined guidelines for how to make use it. Designate diverse spaces in a way that clearly communicates how they might be used — for calling, coding, brainstorming, quiet focus, etc.

Encourage team members to use signs indicating when they are available and when they need focused time alone. To facilitate collaboration and communication: 

  • Whether they are ready to engage in energetic brainstorming 
  • If they need to settle down for a while in a quiet space 
  • If they will be spending a large portion of the day on the phone

Instead of reading one another's minds, encourage clear communication on what team members can expect from each other at work.