Week One With an Open Floor Plan Office Environment

We’re almost a week into our open floor plan arrangement and I must say that things are better than expected. I knew it would increase communication, and distractions, but the value of sharing information and helping each other out has outweighed the cons. Just being in the room has energy and excitement in the air — mostly a testament to the culture and quality of our people, but also related to the work environment.

Way back in May of 2010, Jeff Hilimire blogged that’d he’d never go back to private office again. I remember reading that the day he wrote it and thinking to myself that I’d like to try that out as well. Well, three years later I finally made it happen.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far with an open floor plan office environment:

  • Collaboration and talking amongst team members goes up (as expected)
  • People follow our posted best practices guidelines (respect those around you, no talking on the phone in the large rooms, headphones on means do not disturb, etc)
  • Private meeting rooms are always available with a ratio of one room for every five people (I haven’t seen more than four of the eight meeting rooms used at any given time)
  • Tasks which require long, uninterrupted focus I take to a private room or a different area

My biggest takeaway is that the open floor plan environment works best in conjunction with a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) philosophy. When team members are empowered to get their work done in a matter best suited to how they like to work, an open office floor plan is just one of many options.

Here’s a photo:

open floorplan office

Some of the highlights included tons of natural light, exposed ductwork with 12 foot ceilings, drop lights that shoot light back on the white ceiling so that there’s all indirect light in the room, retractable power cords mounted on the ceiling for maximum flexibility in rearranging desks, and carpet on the floor to absorb sound. Overall, the space looks amazing and I’m excited how it turned out.

What else? What other experiences do you have with open floor plan office environments?

8 thoughts on “Week One With an Open Floor Plan Office Environment

  1. I’ve worked at an open floor plan office environment, and I must say that it certainly has all those perks you listed. Personally, I feel as though this setup works best for startup companies where conversations are encouraged in order to develop the business more efficiently.

  2. We went to an open office just over a year ago, and I’ll never go back. Three things really help us.
    1. Phone calls definitely need to go somewhere else.
    2. Headphones are the norm for us when we’re editing, so the Matchstic flag idea works great for us. http://matchstic.com/blog/2011/05/matchstic-flags/
    3. Email. I stole this one from David Allen. Emailing someone in the same room for everything that isn’t urgent makes all the sense in the world. Weirded my wife our the first few times I did it at home, but now it just feels normal and doesn’t squash productivity.

  3. I forgot the most important thing. Great Design! There is such a difference between a well laid out space and something that looks more like a LAN party. Upstairs, from the indirect lighting to the couches to break up the space to the traffic flow of the different large rooms. I’m also a big fan of everyone’s screen facing towards the room. Keeps me honest, and I don’t have to interrupt people to ask what they’re working on.

    • The key for developers is to empower them, and everyone else, with a results only work environment so that they can deliver results however they please. If they choose to be in the office, headphones in the open areas or relocating to a private room are the preferred means of extended concentration.

      • Agree++! Me thinks the open floor plan + ROWE is critical. OFP doesn’t work best with ROWE, it ONLY works with ROWE. Mangers have to hire the best, remove the obstacles, and get out of their way.

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