HOW TO ACHIEVE A MORE PEACEFUL WORK ENVIRONMENT IN AN OPEN-PLAN OFFICE

  1. Why is investing in a peaceful work environment worthwhile?
  2. From open-plan office to multi-space office – Tools for achieving a more peaceful work environment
  3. Office pods bring spaces for focussed work to the office
  4. Tips for a more peaceful work environment
  5. Download the guide: Creating a good work environment – Office pod placement guide

1. Why is investing in a peaceful work environment worthwhile?

Interruptions, commotion and noise decrease work productivity. Even inspiring work can become unmotivating if one’s focus is constantly interrupted.

Not everyone is distracted by the same things, however: one person might have no problem writing in a noisy café, while another person’s train of thought is easily broken by a colleague changing position. A discussion taking place nearby may interrupt work, even if the topic is unfamiliar or uninteresting to the person trying to work. The sounds of people eating, the rustling of candy wrappers and the rattling of furniture are similarly distracting. In an open-plan office, sound travels all around and easily breaks people’s concentration.

When one’s train of thought is constantly interrupted, it becomes more difficult or even impossible to get back to an unfinished task. Many end up in a vicious cycle of avoidance: an employee frustrated at constant interruptions keeps putting things off and is finally only able to put in a full effort under tremendous pressure.

A work environment where one can get things done only under extreme pressure is not motivating in the long term and does not inspire people to do their best.

Delving back into work after losing one’s train of thought can take as long as 15–20 minutes, and several interruptions in a day add up to many work hours wasted. According to one study, as much as 3–5 hours of the workday is spent inefficiently if an employee’s work is constantly disrupted.

The work environment affects people’s well-being, as commotion and noise trigger a stress response in the body. For someone who is stressed out, even a dream job can begin to feel oppressive, and they may notice their enthusiasm for work fading. In particular, people performing specialist and knowledge work suffer if they cannot find quiet areas in an open-plan work environment where they can focus when they need to.

At the same time, workspaces where discussion and interaction have been made easy inspire many to work productively. Supporting different ways of working is crucial for a well-functioning work environment: a dedicated place and time are provided for discussions and intensive work alike.

An open-plan workspace can be enhanced by offering quiet, peaceful areas to those who need them. A work environment that allows employees to focus on what they are doing increases their productivity and keeps them motivated.

Different needs can be taken into account by dividing a space into working zones and setting ground rules – this makes it possible for those performing knowledge work and those working in sales, who spend a lot of time on the phone, to work together in harmony under one roof.

2. From open-plan office to multi-space office – Tools for achieving a more peaceful work environment

What is a multi-space office?

A multi-space office is one that has different spaces for employees’ different needs.

Unlike an open-plan office, a multi-space office offers its users more than simply open space. A well-designed multi-space office improves space efficiency, encourages communication and offers a quiet place where employees can work.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all multi-space office, because in order to function optimally, the starting point for its design must always be the needs and wishes of the people using it.

How can the features of a multi-space office be used in an open-plan office?

1. Take stock of the needs of the people using the space.
If an open-plan office is plagued by a noisy work environment, the first step in remedying the situation is to find out exactly what the employees want. Openly discuss what disrupts the employees’ work the most: are the interruptions continuous or momentary, and what kind of solutions would they like to see?

2. Bring in office pods
Office pods almost instantly create a more peaceful work environment in open-plan offices – and without the need for renovations. Depending on the work tasks being performed, a quieter work environment can be achieved either by bringing office pods that enable quiet focus into the workspace or by moving disruptive or noisy work elsewhere, for example, into phone booths and meeting rooms. Office pods in an open-plan office make it possible to select a workspace according to the task at hand and also bring more peace and quiet to the area surrounding the pods.

3. Agree on the ground rules
Partitions in between desks and office areas reduce the noise level and create a sense of privacy in the space. Peace and quiet in shared workspaces can also be achieved by agreeing on ground rules. See if moving phone calls and discussions to a specific area of the office or to a workspace meant for them makes the office quieter. Would it help the situation if there was a rule that a colleague wearing headphones must not be disturbed?

3. Office pods bring spaces for focussed work to the office

An office pod can be a phone booth, a workspace, a meeting room, a writing room or a rest area – you decide

Office pods are a handy solution for bringing more peace and quiet to an office space. Even a single office pod reduces the noise level in an office when the space is designed with the biggest need in mind and it is situated close to those who need it.

It is a good idea to establish ground rules for using the office pods to ensure that the spaces serve as many users as possible. Reserving a shared phone booth for hours to use as a personal writing booth is not a good idea, for example. Even though a single office pod can bring relief to an office that is in crisis due to a high level of noise, it is advisable to secure a sufficient number of pods at once to ensure they are flexibly available to users.

What problems do office pods solve?

A noisy work environment can be made more tranquil by bringing in phone booths and meeting pods, or by offering employees spaces where they can perform work that demands focus. The office pod’s intended use should be based on the type of work being performed: the needs and working methods of a fast-paced sales office differ from those of specialists performing knowledge work. 

Office pods for performing work, having meetings and making phone calls are solutions that bring peace and quiet to the work environment. And rest areas help employees charge their batteries during the work day: special places are reserved for taking breaks and recovering. An office pod equipped for use as a coding booth, writing space or editing room helps when the work involves tasks that require uninterrupted focus.

The size of the office pod can also bring flexibility in terms of how the spaces are used. A one-person office pod is used precisely for what it was intended for: for talking on the phone, for instance. A two-person office pod can be used, when needed, as a phone booth, a meeting room and a workspace. A large conference room is an even more flexible solution in which quick meetings can be arranged as needed, say, between four people.

An office pod should be acquired only after first giving careful thought to the need the space will ultimately meet. When the employees’ needs are known, office pods offer an easy, effective and pleasant way of turning an open-plan office into more of a multi-space office. 

Office pod features

The three most important features of an office pod are:

  • soundproofing
  • ventilation
  • lighting

Depending on the intended use of the workspace, the office pod should confine sounds either inside or outside the space. Efficient work requires good ventilation to guarantee an alert mind, as well as appropriate lighting that does not, for example, cause a glare on computer screens.

Thanks to the glass walls of the office pods, you can see at a glance if the space is free. If necessary, privacy film can be applied to the glass walls to eliminate visual distractions and create an even more peaceful work environment.

Solo

Privacy and peace for phone conversations.

Duo

For tasks demanding focus, for work in pairs and video conferences.

Team

An efficiently suondproofed conference space for 2 to 4 participants.

4. Tips for a more peaceful work environment

Setting ground rules – and committing to them – guarantees a peaceful work environment

Establishing jointly agreed ground rules on working and using office pods in an open-plan office makes day-to-day life clearer and lays the foundation for productive work.

Include these tips in your rulebook for a productive office:

  • If there is a separate quiet area in the office, phones and other notification sounds must be kept on mute in this area. Employees must refrain from chatting with colleagues or talking on the phone in the quiet area.
  • Phone calls, video conferences and brief meetings take place in phone booths or in another area meant for them. The open work area becomes more tranquil, even though discussions are permitted in the area.
  • Meetings and conferences must not be held in open work areas – office pods for meetings or conferences, or, if necessary, lounge rooms are better suited for meetings than a shared, open space where others are trying to focus on their work.
  • A person working in an office pod must not be disturbed. This rule can also be extended to other areas in the office by setting up, for example, a “focus zone”, where people working there must not be disturbed. The same rule can be applied to people working with headphones on.
  • Flexible utilisation periods can be defined for the office pod. For example, it is a good idea to move tasks lasting longer than an hour to a quiet work area or to a meeting room. A productive hour is often a big help in focussing on the most pressing tasks.
  • Place office pods as close as possible to work desks and work areas to ensure that they are easy to use.
  • The way the office pod is furnished helps steer the employees to use the space the way it was intended. If an office pod is intended as a rest area, use relaxed furnishings and instruct the employees to use the space precisely for that purpose, not as a phone booth or workspace.

Download the free guide: Creating a good work environment – Office pod placement guide

The work environment is not a once-and-for-all project: needs change, and the office must adapt to the employees’ needs.

With office pods, even quick changes can be made easily and economically, and it is easy to continuously enhance the office environment.

We have compiled a guide containing the information you need to select and place your office pods. Download the guide!

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