Thursday, August 18

For the Open Air Office, It’s All About Balance for Collaboration and Privacy, Say Experts

Office trends come and go, but one thing is clear when it comes to running a business: for many, collaboration is key. This is the reason why many benefit from the open air office environment, and executives are no exception, according to one business.

The Church Health Center, based in Memphis, Tennessee, noticed that even their executives in charge flourished when working in a shared space. In February, Chief Administrative Officer Jennie Robbins, Chief Operating Officer Michaela Sturdivant and Chief Strategic Officer Ann Langston moved into an office together after working in separate buildings previously.

Langston saw the benefits soon after the switch. “It’s amazing how fast you can move things forward when you’re all together,” she said.

Rebecca Courtney, an employee of LRK Inc. architecture firm notes that open air offices are a major trend, with an increasing number of clients who want a collaborative work space.

This could be due to the increasing diversity of opinions in the workplace, says Courtney: “The idea of having collaborative spaces has been around a long time but I think the trend has gone more collaborative as people have begun to recognize the value of different perspectives.”

Part of that trend also results from businesses desiring great cost efficiency when designing an office. Employers can have smaller spaces by the square foot when they shrink or eliminate “personal” work space.

Office sizes are shrinking in terms of square feet per employee. Corporate real estate firm CoreNet Global conducted a study and discovered that the average amount of space each employee has in the office has gone from 225 square feet in 2010 to 150 square feet this year.

Additionally, more than 80 percent of businesses surveyed reported to CoreNet Global that they were going to use more collaborative office environments; 43 percent said that they currently have more collaborative space than private spaces.

For architects, the challenge of an open office environment is figuring out how groups and individuals work in an office setting. Courtney said that this is the main challenge for architects. “From a design perspective we are trying to help people figure out where they’re most productive and where most of the work takes place,” she said, noting that most companies “need a mix” of private and group spaces.

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