For people in open offices, those who feel like they are in a rush tend to have a greater need for personal space. In most cases, these issues can be resolved by agreeing on certain rules or by making changes to variables such as the seating arrangement.

Mutual agreement on rules is key to making an open plan office work

Our job satisfaction survey indicated that employees working in exactly the same kind of open plan offices had very different perceptions of the effectiveness of their work environment. Some thought the space was great, providing good support for work and creating a framework for a strong team spirit. Others saw a lot of room for improvement. Discussions with employees suggested that the way we perceive our work environment is significantly influenced by the extent to which we feel we are in a rush.

Feeling pressed for time affects our perception of the work environment

The sense of being in a rush is usually caused by schedules that are out of our control. Things need to be done immediately, and we are unable to do them at a time that would best suit ourselves. In such circumstances, workplace sounds such as beeping mobile phones or chatting colleagues, which normally would not be perceived as disturbances, might even be seen as creating team spirit and a sense of closeness between employees.

The challenges associated with working in an open space are magnified when people feel they are in a rush. In most cases, these issues can be resolved by agreeing on certain rules or by making changes to variables such as the seating arrangement. If the people sharing the workspace identify certain areas as more noisy than others, the workstations in those areas should be reserved to employees who are mobile and spend a lot of time away from their desks. The people working in the office can also agree to keep the volume of mobile phone sounds as low as possible and avoid loud conversations with colleagues.

Small issues should be resolved immediately

By discussing the arrangements related to the office space in advance, everyone has the opportunity to be heard and you create the feeling that everyone’s opinion counts. Open discussion is also how the best ideas are discovered, and many small issues get resolved before they grow into actual problems.

Age and gender do not appear to be significant factors regarding employee satisfaction with office premises. Perceived job satisfaction in the open plan office environment is related to the way people deal with stress and their individual need for personal space, but even more importantly, the way people share the space and conduct themselves in that space. One space can give rise to very different feelings and perceptions; the people occupying it are key to making it comfortable and effective.

Heli Mäkelä
Human Resources Manager of Sponda