Embrava Blog

How Open Offices are Hurting Your Bottom Line - and How to Fix It

Posted by Embrava on 30/09/2019

How Open Offices are Hurting Your Bottom Line - and How to Fix It

Throughout the 2010s, the open office trend took off. For some companies, it was a huge boom: it generated greater collaboration, saved construction costs, increased flexibility and energized teams to tear down walls as figuratively as they did literally.

For others, adopting the open office ideology over practicality came at a high cost—the cost of productivity. Many quickly learned that thrusting the average worker into this setting had an immediate negative impact on their concentration, and the numbers bear it out.

In a recent study, 68% of participants ranked the ability to work with minimal distractions as one of their top three workspace priorities, while only 41% claimed to have the tools to properly filter them out. What’s more, interruptions caused by open floorplans not only reduced productivity by 15%, but also decreased workers’ well-being by 32%—both of which can massively damage a business’ bottom line. When all the elements combine, disengaged employees end up costing U.S. businesses $450 to $550 billion per year.

While many employees who work in open office settings have adopted unofficial symbols of not wanting to be disturbed—like donning a pair of headphones—solutions like these aren’t universally understood or heeded. But is there a universal solution?

There sure is: status indicators.

By integrating a status indicator light—a smart status-sensing, color-coded light—with every workstation, you can reduce local and remote interruptions for your employees, increasing their productivity and well-being and ultimately, your bottom line.

Minimize local interruptions

Minimize Local Interruptions

While the ethos of the open office touts increased ease of collaboration, it seems to ignore two glaring statistics. For one, a recent Udemy study revealed that 80% of participants agreed that chatty coworkers were their primary distraction. And the second most common distraction? Office noise (70%).

While it may be impossible to quiet a room full of busy office workers or turn “Chatty Kathy” into “Appropriately Conversational Kathy”, status indicators still go a long way in minimizing local distractions.

First, status indicators make each employee’s availability perfectly clear through an easy-to-understand color code. For instance, if someone is available, their status light is green. For someone who is involved in deep work, the light is red. This lets employees work solo without the threat of distractions and clearly monitor the availability of their colleagues for when it’s time to collaborate.

Second, the more widely used status indicators are, the more effective they are. Widespread usage within a given office setting means that more employees are aware of—and more likely to respect—the signals. In a large-scale, long-term field study of status indicator use, a whopping 70% of users claimed that their status lights were respected by others.

Save time and boost efficiency

Save Time and Boost Efficiency

Efficiency is the heart of productivity, but sadly, it can be easily compromised at just about every turn.

For instance, it takes time to pull yourself away from work, walk to a colleague’s desk, relay information, walk back to your own and get back into your workflow—and that doesn’t even account for having to wait for their availability.

By contrast, looking at their status indicator takes but a second, not only saving potentially inopportune discussion time, but removing the walking, waiting, and everything else in between.

Actually improve collaboration and communication

Actually Improve Collaboration and Communication

Chances are that if you made the move to adopt an open floorplan, you were trying to gain one of its most highly-touted benefits: improved collaboration and communication.

Unfortunately, according the stats above, many offices who made the same move saw the opposite effect, with both morale and productivity dropping significantly. A Harvard study even found that an open floor layout actually discourages person-to-person interaction. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

Status indicators take advantage of open office sightlines, allowing workers to streamline the timing of conversations. Employees can make themselves available to collaborate only when it’s opportune, letting them focus fully on the content of their collaborative discussions rather than on the fact that they are being distracted from other work. Eliminating “pop-up” conversations also makes interactions less stressful and therefore more pleasant, encouraging future collaboration as well.

Ditch manual status-setting

Ditch Manual Status-Setting

Unified communications platforms like Skype/Teams and Cisco Jabber may allow users to set their status, but they still have significant issues.

For starters, they still require users to manually change their status every time their availability changes, and even those with excellent memories can easily forget to do so from time to time. On top of that, when employees leave up inaccurate statuses, others start to distrust the system’s accuracy, which eventually results in complete disuse.

Status indicators, however, take memory out of the equation. Some have even been designed with smart technology that automatically detects a user’s workflows and sets their remote and local status accordingly, letting everyone around them—both physically and digitally—know their availability.

Use status indicators to turn your open floor into an open door

Use status indicators to turn your open floor into an open door

Adopting status indicators office-wide is a proven way to reduce distractions and interruptions in open office environments, and improve productivity by up to 60% in the process.

Want to know even more ways you can increase productivity in your open office environment? Download our latest white paper! 

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