Losing Faith in the Open Office Plan?

Losing Faith in the Open Office Plan?

Businesses have bought in to the open office plan in a big way. It’s a definite money-saver, requiring 50%-75% fewer square feet per employee than enclosed offices or cubicles. And compared to “cubicle farms,” an open office is a visually welcoming environment that encourages communication and collaboration. Approximately 70% of American offices were open plan in 2017, according to The Chicago Tribune. The GSA, too, is strongly pitching open offices to federal agencies.

However, the open office plan is not one-size-fits-all, and a significant number of organizations are finding that open offices are creating more problems than they are solving. The Tribune report enumerates the problems created by open offices: distracting noise levels, reduced work-life balance, lack of privacy for everything from confidential emails to moments of personal stress. Some workers at prominent corporations, particularly highly-focused introverts, have threatened to quit when their workplace was redesigned in an open style.

Nevertheless, the positive aspects of the open office still make it very appealing to many organizations. In-demand younger professionals show a definite preference for open offices, and the cross-pollination between teams is an undeniable benefit, in addition to build-out and space utilization savings. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, organizational researchers Brandi Pearce and Pamela Hinds point to “place identity” as an essential component of a well-functioning open office plan. Place identity is similar to the notion of taking ownership of one’s work; the place where you work aligns with your perception that your work is meaningful and valuable, and a reflection of your best self.

To achieve place identity, Pearce and Hinds emphasize the need for leaders to be enthusiastic about the open office design, and to share the plan and the enthusiasm with their teams before any changes are made. Equally important: Employees are encouraged to adapt the space to their needs. Pearce and Hinds found that workers routinely rearranged their desks as their need for collaboration or privacy changed.

Rearranging work spaces on an ad hoc basis calls for highly adaptive furnishings. Designers are choosing furnishings with wheels for easy mobility, and hinged panels and tool-free set-up for quick reconfigurations. Manufacturer Swiftspace has led the way with its mobile reconfigurable workstations that morph from semi-private desks to collaborative conference tables and work benches. This kind of easy adaptivity and control over personal space is the essence of place identity.

Like so many things, the open office plan ceases to function well if taken to an extreme. No one wants to go back to cube farms, however. To find the right balance between enclosed spaces and open offices, enlist the expertise of a workspace strategy consultant and put place identity at the center of your office design decisions.


Photo © ajr_images / Adobe Stock

Built for Speed: The New Lab

Built for Speed: The New Lab

Ten years and $2.5 billion – that’s what it takes to bring a new drug to market these days, says the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Time is money, and drug companies are starting to design their labs with speed in mind. As Mitchell Weitz of Bristol-Myers Squibb states in LabDesignNews.com, the goal is to “break the physical and logical barriers to getting work done.”

Technology is part of the picture, of course. At Johnson & Johnson, employees are provided with an array of supportive technology, from laptop docking stations and virtual collaboration rooms to walk-up tech-support kiosks. Employees are encouraged to choose workspaces that suit them and the work they are doing. And because employees are empowered to define their work areas, formerly-distributed teams can now collaborate in the same physical space, and quick face-to-face decision-making can speed the work along.

Giving individuals and teams this kind of autonomy and mobility means lab spaces must be able to turn on a dime, changing form and function as quickly as the teams using them make decisions. Solid walls and built-in casework take time to remove, and even more time and expense to re-build, and designers are turning to modular casework to speed up the reconfiguration of labs. These “building blocks” of cabinetry can be assembled in an almost infinite variety of combinations. Wall units can be repurposed as work benches; fixed work benches can transform into mobile workstations; large runs of cabinetry can be divided and re-used in a number of small rooms. And not only does modular casework save time, it saves the cost of re-building casework from scratch.

Agility-driven design choices of this type can be seen everywhere in the new pharma labs. Designers have calculated walk times from one building to another, analyzed the speed of new-technology adoption, and included such holistic elements as stairways and lounges to encourage serendipitous exercise and face time. As labs get faster, and incremental time savings add up to cost savings, the benefit of speed is readily apparent: new remedies, produced efficiently and profitably, and delivered affordably to improve everyone’s health.


Photo © Sergey Nivens / Adobe Stock

The Undeniable Benefits of Relocation

The Undeniable Benefits of Relocation

Relocation is rarely welcomed with open arms, but when it’s the result of your organization’s growth, it’s a high-class problem to have. Moreover, relocation is a great opportunity for improvements of many kinds. It’s a chance to take a step back and gain perspective on your progress, and look forward toward future growth and how your new space can support it. Australian design consultancy Aspect lists five benefits of relocation that apply to almost any business organization.

  1. Improved Productivity – Overcrowding cuts into productivity. Your new location gives you a chance to design your workspace and storage for efficient space usage so no one is crowded.
  2. Added Flexibility – “Agile” teams are built around the principle of self-determination, requiring a flexible, collaborative management style. Flexible workstations underscore the agile philosophy, and a relocation is the perfect time to add flexibility to your office environment.
  3. Lower Costs – If you’re in a buyer’s market, relocation can allow you to negotiate a favorable rental rate or purchase price. If you wisely chose modular casework for your current offices, you can take the cabinetry with you to your new space and save some build-out costs.
  4. Room to Grow – Even if you’re not relocating to a much larger space, you can still add room for new staff by condensing your storage footprint with a mobile high density storage system.
  5. Enhanced Brand Image – As your organization grows, your brand image becomes more focused and better refined. A relocation is a perfect time to design a workspace that reflects your brand’s values; for example, if sustainability is a primary brand value, invest in workstations and furnishings manufactured to meet green standards.

A new workspace is a blank slate, ready for you to write the future for your business. It’s an exciting time, filled with possibilities for what’s next. Focus on the positive opportunities, talk to a design and storage consultant, and enjoy the benefits of a successful relocation.


Photo © Monkey Business/Fotolia.com

A Different Kind of Overhead

A Different Kind of Overhead

Square footage is ever more precious as our urban areas grow ever more crowded. Cities with naturally occuring geographical restrictions – San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York (Manhattan) – learned long ago that when you can’t go out, you have to go up. Land is too valuable to devote to the single-level use of green space, and except for a few famous parks, the concrete canyons of the world’s major cities are almost completely lacking in greenery. That is, unless Spanish biologist/designer Ignacio Solano has been at work.

From childhood, Solano studied the symbiotic relationships among plants, fungi, and bacteria. In 2007 he developed a successful method of gardening vertically using the natural interdependence of the botanical ecosystem. Patented in 2010, Solano’s verticalVertical garden gardens were immediately commissioned by forward-thinking architects in Europe and South America. One of his most notable installations covers the surface of a high-rise building in Bogota, Columbia, as seen in this photo. A model of efficiency and automation, the garden utilizes grey water from the apartments combined with a system of sensors that monitor moisture, and distribute and recycle water.

Crowded urban spaces aren’t the only beneficiaries of a vertical solution. Businesses, too, can expand into unused overhead space within their offices or warehouses by installing a vertical storage system. These ingenious automated carousel systems increase storage capacity while conserving expensive floor space. And because there are no ladders or manual overhead lifting, a vertical carousel system actually improves employee safety. All these features add up to significant savings.

By utilizing the space overhead, you’re really decreasing another kind of overhead – the kind that contributes to your bottom line. Get in touch with a storage consultant to see if vertical is the direction your business should be looking.


Photo © Vita Vilcina

Bad Design is Expensive in Ways You Never Guessed

Bad Design is Expensive in Ways You Never Guessed

As a business manager, the twin pillars of design – form and function— may not be at the top of your priority list, but design has a profound influence on everything you do, from your business space to your computer screen to your office or warehouse storage. Good design improves productivity and supports sales. Bad design can drive away business. How do you create good design?


First impressions matter, no question. We’ve all been told to dress for success, and your business is no different. A well-designed professional appearance supports your company’s reputation for competence and experience. Whether it’s in the physical space or online, design tells customers whether you’re trustworthy and professional. An amateurish website and user interface will create doubts in a customer’s mind. In the real world, your office’s interior and exterior design will have the same effect on your customers. Doubts about your business will ultimately hit your bottom line.


Good design requires attention to form AND function, and there is a direct link between good functional design and high productivity. To determine whether your business is designed to function well, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do your offices support and facilitate teamwork?
  2. As production needs change, can you easily reconfigure workstations for new production needs?
  3. Are documents and products easy to store and easy to retrieve?
  4. Is your space used efficiently, to minimize your real estate footprint?
  5. Can you track assets and inventory without laborious hand-counting, and can you fill orders efficiently and accurately without labor-intensive hand-picking?
  6. Are your teams working in safety and security?

If you answer Yes to most, or all, of these questions, your business has the kind of functional design that leads to continuous improvement and maximum profits. If you don’t have these productivity tools in place, poorly-functioning design could be dragging your company into the red.

But don’t feel as though you have to become a design expert in addition to all the other business skills you’ve developed. From interior designers to software engineers, landscape designers to office furnishings and storage experts (like us), design professionals will analyze the unique needs of your business and create the optimal blend of form and function. You’ll not only stand out from the competition, you’ll deliver better, faster, and more profitably.


Photo © xixinxing/Fotolia.com

The Kindness ROI

The Kindness ROI

“Nice guys finish last,” or so we’ve always been told. In the rough-and-tumble of business competition, there seems to be no pay-off for altruistic behavior. Yet we see it over and over again: Businesses large and small sharing resources of expertise, products, and money. What gives?

In the bean-counting business world, kindness counts for little. Nevertheless, business-related giving has a quantifiable return on investment, as reported in a study by the University of California San Diego. Researcher James Fowler found that gift-giving created a ripple effect within a community. Gift recipients were more inclined to be generous themselves, and the effect of the initial gift was amplified to three times its original value.

More important, those gifts came back to the giver in the form of relationships, something no business can afford to be without. Even small gifts of advice will establish and solidify relationships, says Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, in an interview for “The Creator’s Code” by Amy Wilkinson. Someone who is willing to give a hand is the sort of person that others would want to do business with.

Conversely, people who behave selfishly become isolated from the larger community, as a study from Harvard’s Department of Psychology discovered. Sharers acquired allies; non-sharers were quickly cut off from resources and community support.

Writing in Fortune Magazine, Amy Wilkinson relates the frequency with which successful business leaders “gift small goods,” as she terms the practice of being generous in a small but meaningful way. Feedback, introductions, and counsel are ways these people lend a hand to other business colleagues. Wilkinson cites these kindnesses as one of the six skills common to successful entrepreneurs.

Wilkinson also points to the power of social media in amplifying the effects of kindness. When recipients of your gifts mention your generosity on social media, it has an immediate positive effect on image, and on revenues.

No doubt you’ve experienced that pleasant vicarious enjoyment that comes from someone else’s happy response to a gift you’ve given them. Now there’s proof that you’re doing your business good at the same time you’re doing good for others.

And of course, we at NOS would like to feel that same vicarious enjoyment too. May we “gift small goods” to you?