<i>Dear Workforce</i> How We Adjust To Open-Landscape Office Plans
February 20, 2003
Dear Adapting…sort of: Open landscape refers to a planning method whereby workplaces occupying asignificant portion of a floor are arranged in clusters and bordered bypartitions/panels. A common personal impact for managers is perceived loss ofstatus. This may be addressed by reframing one's value system around otheroutcomes such as salary, vacation time, value to the organization, or respect ofpeers and associates. A manager may be most effective when higher levels of privacy control arepresent, thereby minimizing distractions and interruptions. This may be done assimply as placing some form of a “do not disturb” sign or positioning theworkstation's entrance so people can see whether it's OK to enter, or ifthey should come back later. On the other hand, some managers flourish in ahighly interactive environment. These people may frequently invite associates tocome in for a visit. Understanding one's preferences permits a manager to make intelligentchoices about personal workspace. As far as the “privacy room” dilemma, itmay be a positive culture shift. If you can encourage associates to work throughconflicts in a responsible manner out in the open, everyone can learn from it.Then, you can leave the private meetings for truly personal issues. A highly interactive manager may walk around and experience what's going onby observing interactions and relationships. In this way, issues may beidentified and addressed before anyone experiences difficulties, enhancing amanager's openness, creativity, and effectiveness. This also offers associatesopportunities to touch base with a manager less formally. A manager may also be better able to discern the kinds of preferences thatwould suggest general policy implementation. For example, a policy eliminatingthe use of speakerphones in the open plan might be helpful to most, whileheadsets would still allow comfort and a normal speaking voice for those makingsales calls. In the process, customers on the phone would not feel a reductionin their privacy due to the common speakerphone echo. At both levels, managers must ask themselves what they can do differently tofacilitate this transition, rather than asking how to make others change.Controlling yourself is easier than controlling someone else, so there anopportunity to tap into one's own wisdom and respond by doing the right thingsfor the right reasons to get the right results. Associates will pick up on whatthey see working well and in time the culture will integrate those helpfulbehaviors. SOURCE:David P Secan, Principal of Secan Associates, Buckingham,Pennsylvania, Aug. 2, 2002. LEARN MORE: Read Redesign for a Better WorkEnvironment. The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.