This kind of flexibility and open-concept office designs rose to popularity when Silicon Valley first championed open work spaces, and by 2014, 70% of all offices in the US reported having open floor plans.
Today, however, research is showing that completely open workplaces can actually increase employee stress levels and decrease productivity. While at the same time, cubicles and more traditional office design appears to actively discourage collaboration and is a major detractor for many job seekers.
So, how do companies manage the balance of an open office concept with the need for private, structured areas? The answer lies in conference rooms and closed huddle spaces and having the right tools to manage them.
Conference room management software can not only help provide private spaces for employees when they need it, but also makes finding, scheduling, cleaning and planning for new spaces easier for everyone.
Employees Want Offices with Privacy, Flexibility and Predictability
According to a Harvard Business School study, transitioning to an open concept workspace actually reduced face-to-face interactions among employees by 70%, while increasing email communication by 50%. This is the reverse effect most companies are hoping for when planning an open office concept.
The idea of the flexible workplace is typically appealing due to its ability to give employees more freedom, which in turn should foster greater collaboration, improve happiness at work and boost productivity. However, in recent years, employees in open office spaces have been found to experience the opposite: higher levels of stress, conflict and turnover.
Still, the solution to the open workspace concept cannot be returning to the old days of cubicles. Research from CBRE showed that one of the main requirements of employees in their work environment is choice and flexibility. An office that is open, with flexible workspaces, a variety of seating options, and the ability to work from different places within the building or at home, offers the flexibility that employees not only need, but demand.
However, employees also want privacy and predictability — something that open offices lack. It can be uncomfortable for employees to walk into a new floorplan every day, where they risk their favorite desk being taken, or simply being unable to find a seat near a window. It can also cause privacy concerns when they need to make phone calls or reduce noise in a more closed-off area.
Even if an office provides both open and private spaces, without proper technology to help manage the space, employees will still have concerns about finding the right space when they need it.
Conference room management software helps companies balance their open, flexible workspaces with private, activity-based workspaces, to keep employees happy, engaged and productive. As the world continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, socially distant and sanitized open spaces and private spaces will continue to be critical for the eventual return to the office.
Create Privacy with Conference Rooms and Huddle Spaces
A lack of privacy in the workspace can overwhelm and detract employees from their work. The stereotypical open office plan, with few walls and lots of room for sound to travel, creates an overwhelming workplace experience. Employees can feel like no space is truly their own or feel like eyes are constantly on them. This stress over private spaces can ultimately tank productivity.
In order to promote productivity and collaboration in the workplace, employees need to feel a sense of authority over their daily experience, or companies risk low satisfaction. While a flexible, open office environment fosters collaboration, promotes learning and can nurture a strong culture, it also does not provide the authority and privacy employees need to generate ideas or process information.
Swinging the pendulum too far in either direction is going to cause major dissatisfaction for the majority of employees — the key is balancing your space and effectively managing private spaces like meeting rooms and huddle spaces.
By adding more private spaces like conference rooms or closed huddle spaces – which are typically just smaller meeting rooms – to your open floorplans, you can help create a sense of privacy. If employees know they have private spaces they can retreat to when needed, the open floor concept becomes a much less overwhelming and stressful experience.
And by ensuring these spaces are easily accessible, you remove any concern around availability. For example, if you include these spaces in your conference room management software, employees will be able to immediately see what spaces are booked and when, giving them time to plan out their schedule and decide where they want to work from on what days.
A software solution also provides opportunities for on-the-fly private spaces, including releasing rooms that end up not being used or checked in to, and digital signage outside meeting spaces that show if the room is free to use.
Create Flexibility with Remote Working and Activity-Based Workspaces
Research from IWG has shown that in the last ten years, 83% of businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to adopt one. And a large part of these policies now include the ability for employees to work remotely, which is even more critical during times of emergency, like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also why providing technology like video conferencing is critical for encouraging engagement and collaboration while remote.
However, working remotely has only partially solved the issue of workplace flexibility. Many businesses still want to keep their employees coming to the office to encourage in-person collaboration. Yet, employers are having a hard time figuring out other ways of bringing flexibility into the workplace.
Desk sharing, office hoteling and open office concepts can provide one aspect of flexibility, but employees are also looking for options to escape the overwhelming stimuli — things like office chatter or crowded spaces — to work in a more private setting.
Having the ability to move around the office and find the space that suits your needs is a fundamental aspect of workplace flexibility. Different personality types will always need different spaces to do their best work.
The more introverted employees may seek out quiet huddle rooms while more extroverted employees may find greater comfort in high-traffic areas. Ultimately, it's up to companies to provide a variety of shared and private spaces to fit these differing needs.
That’s why, as you plan for the ‘Great Return to Work,’ you should also consider how to keep your physical office spaces flexible and mobile, like providing unassigned work areas, different types of surroundings and seating options, and more private rooms for employees to use.
Conference room management software can make your office's return to work more streamlined and secure for your employees. With functionality like meeting room booking, cleaning, huddle space reserving and meeting management, a comprehensive room and resource scheduling solution will make the move back into the office efficient and flexible for all employees.
Create Predictability and Comfort with a Space Reservation System
In addition to the need for private and flexible space, employees are seeking predictability and comfort in the workplace. This can feel contradictory to the open office concept, where unassigned workspaces and employee’s constant moving around is the norm.
Indeed, many parts of the open office concept do not cater to predictability. Some employees, depending on their preferred work environment, may find the idea of working in a space where everyone can see their screen to be extremely uncomfortable. Or perhaps they cannot focus when there is too much office noise, and have trouble wearing headphones to help minimize the noise. Additionally, when there is brainstorming or other collaborative work to be done, some groups may want private spaces to gather and discuss, rather than host meetings out in the open where they will possibly (or inevitably) disturbing other employees.
At the end of the day, some employees just prefer a more solitary work environment, and that's okay! It's important to include a variety of workspaces within your office environment to improve the office experience for every employee.
Technology that allows employees to reserve their work space ahead of time can be a valuable tool for providing a sense of comfort. Knowing that they can secure the space they need in advance or find available private rooms on the fly reduces anxiety around not knowing if they’ll be able to get their work done that day. The more they can plan their day, the more employees can ensure they will be productive.
This means investing in the right conference room management software is paramount to offering the necessary level of comfort your employees need to be successful in the workplace. Some ways conference room management software can improve comfort for employees in your workplace include:
- Booking meeting rooms ahead of time for group or individual use.
- Ensuring proper cleaning and sanitizing has been scheduled and completed for shared spaces and private rooms.
- Reserving huddle spaces day-of to guarantee access to private space.
- Offering desk hoteling options so employees can pick and choose their ideal seating arrangement.
- Showing when rooms are open for on-the-fly reservations when employees need to escape the open office.
Create a Modern Office Experience with Better Control and Insight
The modern office, while open and flexible, needs to be closely managed and monitored in order to provide the right working spaces for every type of employee. But without the right technology, you have no control over or insight into the spaces you are providing your employees.
That’s why the number one thing you can do to create a modern, flexible workplace environment is invest in a powerful conference room management tool.
In addition to helping you avoid the chaos of double bookings or unclear reservation processes, the right tools can also provide space utilization insights that helps you make better decisions about your real estate.
Conference room management software can:
- Cut down on the back-and-forth communications between employees, trying to find a time that works and space that is available.
- Reduce employee anxiety around whether shared and private spaces will be available when they need them.
- Manage sanitization and cleaning of shared and private rooms to ensure employee safety.
- Provide opportunities for desk hoteling or office sharing in a structured manner to prevent employee frustration.
- Eliminate the concerns of double bookings or unclear space reservation processes.
- Present robust insights and data on how your spaces are being used, so that you can make more informed real estate and business decisions.
- Improve employee culture and morale with a more flexible, better designed workplace that benefits and caters to every kind of personality and a variety of privacy needs.
Choosing the Right Conference Room Management Software Solution
In order to provide an open, flexible workspace for employees that still allows for privacy and predictability, businesses will need to invest in room and resource scheduling software. But choosing the right scheduling platform is critical to the success of your long-term workplace strategy. To make sure you cover all your bases, download our checklist for selecting the right scheduling platform for your organization.
Accruent's EMS space scheduling and planning solution offers unified scheduling options, advanced meeting management, hybrid spaces support and flexible integrations to create an office-wide solution that meets the needs of every employee. EMS also provides robust reporting and analytics capabilities so that you can see when and how your space is being used, providing you with opportunities to better arrange and utilize your space to optimize employee engagement and satisfaction.
Schedule a demo with us today to see how EMS can help you balance a flexible, modern workplace.