The Progressive IT Pro’s Guide to Addressing Open Office Chaos
Today’s IT departments have a lot on their plates. There’s always another massive infrastructure project on the horizon, digital transformation initiatives are coming in left and right, and with whatever time is left over, IT is consumed by tech support requests and complaints. But as technology plays a more central role in our working lives, CIOs and IT teams need to prioritize the employee experience, which is a commonly overlooked area by IT departments.
In fact, IT is uniquely positioned to create work experiences that better enable productivity, support collaboration, attract the best and brightest talent, and instill pride in the work environment. This is especially true as the employee experience faces its greatest threat yet.
The reality is that the open office has become the decidedly dominant office plan.
More than half (58%) of IT managers report that their companies have moved to open plan office spaces for some or all of their employees.1
Not only can this layout foster innovation, but it attracts workers, particularly Generations Y and Z. Younger generations are drawn to the light, energy, and aesthetic of the space in which they can openly connect with their colleagues. In fact, more than half of workers say they prefer an open, shared floor plan office.2
Thanks to the reduced employee footprint, the benefits also extend to the bottom line. Open plan offices help to achieve:
However, distractions run rampant in an open office environment. And these distractions are far more than just an annoyance; they can lead to serious financial implications for your business.
Consider this: 40% of workers in open plan offices report that they’re always or very often distracted.3
Additionally, nearly a third of all workers say they lose an hour or more of productivity each day to distractions.4 Multiply that by the dozens or hundreds of workers you have in your open office space and you’re looking at major financial losses due to nothing more than chitchat and background noise.
The perils of the open office don’t just affect your colleagues.
You’re taking a conference call from your desk with your remote team and the CIO. You’re attempting to chime in on next year’s budget and must-have investments when everyone on the call is interrupted by a group laughing behind you. After spending five minutes sharing your input, the call is interrupted again by a sales rep giving a presentation the next cubicle over. Your CIO is clearly annoyed and asks to reschedule the call when everyone can be in a quiet environment.
Building a thriving community within your office is great, but you and your employees don’t just go to work to be social. You go to, well, work. When you can’t, you get frustrated, which impacts your engagement and retention down the road.
IT is uniquely positioned to incorporate technology into the office space in a way that helps mitigate distractions and creates a positive change for the business and employees. Using technology to overcome employee distractions is an opportunity for IT to demonstrate to business teams that they are a proactive partner in the business, helping IT earn a greater say in the company’s direction.
In this guide, we’ll outline the four opportunities IT has to immediately help tackle open office woes. Find yourself a quiet, private space (good luck) and read on.
Today’s open offices are filled with a variety of spaces that individuals and teams can use to get work done. Each has different characteristics, but they can generally be grouped into two categories:
Understanding the different types of spaces in your open office and how they are susceptible to noise and distraction will be crucial in helping you decide how to equip them with the right equipment and solutions.
Every company has a wide range of roles and workstyles in their workforce. That means that each employee has specific technology needs for blocking out noise and distractions. Here are the four most common types of office workers you need to accommodate:
Each of these workers has unique needs ranging from their preferred style of communication to the way they use different devices in their daily lives. Equipping them with the right tools is critical for maximizing their productivity. It’s up to IT to understand each employee’s specific needs, and then provide tailored solutions that allow them to be successful regardless of how, where, and when they work.
It’s important to remember that noise due to an open office floor plan isn’t just distracting to workers in the office. It’s also distracting to whoever is on the other end of the line. This can mean that remote co-workers, customers, or prospects are hearing laughter, games, barking dogs, and chatter instead of the conversation they’re supposed to be having with your employee. Talk about unprofessional.
When tackling open office perils, it’s important to look for solutions that protect the people in your office, as well as the people on the other line that they’re talking to. Headset solutions need to have Active Noise Cancelling technology specifically designed for open office environments. Additionally, both headsets and desk phones should have smart microphones that block extraneous sounds from entering the call.
In shared meeting spaces, people attending a meeting online shouldn’t have to stare at the entire room or hear every noise. Just as you would focus on whoever is speaking during a meeting, your video and audio solutions should allow people who are dialing into the meeting to focus on the speaker.
Today’s leading technology solutions feature HD audio microphones and speakers, seamless content sharing between devices, and HD tracking cameras that can use facial recognition technology to automatically track and frame the speaker. This all helps immerse remote participants so they can engage just as deeply in the conversation as the people who are around the table.
When using technology to reduce distractions, you need to make sure it is both easy to use and consistent across the entire office. The reason is simple: It’s in everyone’s best interest that employees be able to use meeting technology without requiring IT assistance. Employees don’t want to waste the first 10 minutes of a call trying to get the technology to work correctly, and you don’t want to keep getting called to troubleshoot every meeting.
But with the average company using three or more different Unified Collaboration and Communication (UCC) platforms,10 creating a seamless experience that requires little or no IT intervention is a challenge. That’s why the endpoint devices you employ should be interoperable and work seamlessly with many different platforms and services. Your goal should be to provide your workers with a simple and familiar experience no matter what “I” or “We” space they happen to be using so that they can be instantly productive.
Not only will this help reduce support tickets, but it also will accelerate adoption and help your organization more quickly mitigate the perils of the open office.
What does IT need?
Handing out headsets and equipping rooms is one thing. But finding all the solutions you need, configuring them, and making sure they’re operating correctly is the true key to success. You must find the right communications partner to successfully help your employees overcome the perils of the open office. Here’s what to look for:
One-stop shop that can support all spaces and workstyles so you can reduce cost and complexity.
Real-time access to all devices to monitor performance and quickly identify any red flags.
Proven track record of devices that are certified as interoperable by your key service and platform providers.
Support and training to optimize your overall investment.
Addressing open office chaos is an opportunity for IT to drive positive change for the business and build a progressive image for the department. Your team has the power to:
Forge connections between disparate teams
Provide effective communication and collaboration resources
Positively influence employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention
You might be surprised at how easily and cost effectively you can demonstrate results, from combining the right audio and video technology with dedicated work spaces, to increasing employee productivity. Here are some tips on how to run a simple and engaging pilot program to foster better communication and collaboration within your business: