The Most Common Problems Millennials Experience in an Open Plan Office

The Top 10 Uncomfortable Situations that Millennial Employees Experience in an Open Plan Office.

Lots of employers have listened to expert advice and adopted an open-plan workplace. Often these companies are ahead of the game in their field and draw a largely millennial pool of applicants. Some of the promoted benefits of open plan offices include increased team morale and cooperation, and heightened creativity and innovation as employees share the space and with it are expected to explore ideas and share constructive feedback. Nevertheless, open-plan offices can definitely create uncomfortable situations for the employees that use them and consequently pose problems for management and hinder the positive effects of collaboration and social bonding.

Open plan offices can definitely create uncomfortable situations.

top 10 problems millennials experience
Frictions that employees face in an open-plan office.

Here is an overview of some of the most encountered frictions that employees face in an open-plan office:

  • The open office layout is fraught with potential distractions. Co-workers chatting or making loud sales pitches, tapping on keyboards and listening to news broadcasts…all this noise can often make concentrating on your to-do list difficult.
  • Gossip tends to run rife between colleagues, and spread faster in open-plan offices.
  • That moment when you are done with all your tasks for the day but your colleagues are still working, and you might feel bad for leaving, even if it is not early!
  • The office dynamic might change if someone is selected for a promotion over their colleagues, and still has to sit next to them every day.
  • Avoiding workplace events like karaoke or happy hour – if what you really want is a quiet night at home to relax – gets harder when everyone at work is excited and tries to persuade you all day.
  • Depending on the cohort that is occupying the office, sitting with a group of people for hours on end can be uncomfortable if no one is willing to communicate, since it feels like sitting with strangers almost! The flip side, of course, is when your colleagues are a little too comfortable sharing personal stories while you are trying to work, and maybe even expecting the same level of intimate sharing from you!
  • Not everyone has the same attitude to tidiness and cleanliness and that can affect desks left with scattered papers and dirty coffee cups. The open office plan often includes shared desks for brainstorming and team meetings, but having to clean up a mess before using them can be perceived as disrespectful and annoying.
  • Making friends and getting to know colleagues can be more overwhelming at the beginning in an open-plan office. Being “thrown’ in the middle of an open-plan can be more intimidating that joining a small group of people in a small office.
  • This type of workplace layout can have you feeling like you are being watched most of the time and not only by your supervisor but also possibly by other colleagues.
  • And last but not least, and possibly the most uncomfortable situation of all, is having a manager fire an employee when they both share the same open-plan space and still have to share the space during the notice period after the firing news. This is equally uncomfortable for both manager and employee!

Today, research shows that open plan oficce dicreases employee focus and productivity from 15% to 28%.

top 10 problems millennials experience
top 10 problems millennials experience
top 10 problems millennials experience

However, before you dismiss the open-plan office, know that those potential problems can be overcome and quite easily in fact. And furthermore, open plans have lots of benefits when done well. To find out more if the open-plan is for your company or not, and more importantly how to set yourself up for success with an open-plan office, click here.

While some of those top 10 uncomfortable situations are a nightmare for some, they are a dream come true for others. Think for example about the people – probably highly extrovert – that thrive in busy environments and do some of their best thinking with background noise. This makes those problems all the more hard to solve if you, as an Human Resources, Facility or Real estate manager is trying to solve them for your employees. My advice? Empower people to solve them by themselves for themselves. How you ask?

The key when it comes to overcoming almost any potential friction and problem in open-plan situations is to provide employees with two key ‘super-powers’: choice and control. This implies a mature level of design at two levels: architectural and managerial.

  • Architectural Level
    Provide employees a well designed workplace that offers a variety of work settings for employees to choose from so they can meet their specific needs for focused work, concentration, quiet, collaboration and social dynamics through out the day.
  •  Managerial Level
    Create a culture where employees feel they have the power, the freedom and the control to indeed choose and make use of the spaces and work settings offered to them.

If you are curious to see how we have solved this open-plan case for our clients, download here AKKA’s Innovative Workplace Expert guide which will help you to achieve the right balance in between open plan office and close plan office. 

Use your workplace as a strategic tool to attract and retain the best talent.

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