Looking to enhance productivity of your employees? Give their brains some space

As soon as the open-plan office became more common, the debate about its problems began. The biggest, albeit not the only, problem was considered to be noise and the distraction that it caused.

This challenge is not only disturbing, but it is also expensive. Research shows that it takes about 15 minutes for a person to refocus on a task to the same level as before a disruption.

How many times are you distracted in an hour, day, week, month or year? This question gives you a good idea of how many working hours are lost – and the extent to which productivity suffers – due to disruptions.

The fact that our concentration is disturbed by disruptions is nobody’s fault; it is an inherent feature in us and the result of evolution.

When our hunter-gatherer ancestors collected food thousands of years ago, they subconsciously kept their eyes and ears open for movements and noises. This was essential for them to be able to react and take cover when faced with a dangerous situation.

The tasks in modern work environments are very different from those in the Stone Age, but our inbuilt defence mechanisms still work in the same way. Noises such as people talking, phones ringing or the noise from the renovation work in the office next door can activate the alarm system in our brain and break our concentration.

From open-plan offices to multi-space offices

Most of the offices built or renovated nowadays are multi-space offices.

The challenges identified in open-plan offices are overcome in multi-space offices with the creation of different work environments for different purposes: teamwork spaces, quiet zones for working alone, meeting rooms and a sufficient number of workstations.

The idea of a multi-space office is that employees choose an area in which to work according to the task they are performing. There are clear rules for each space, including where and when it is acceptable to interrupt colleagues and any other rules associated with a particular space.

For example, it can be agreed that quiet pods are only to be used when the task at hand really requires peace and quiet so that their availability can be guaranteed. If it is necessary to leave the space for more than an hour, employees are expected take their things with them so that another employee can use the space.

There should be rules for using the different areas in multi-space offices, and everyone should be involved in drawing up these rules.

The functionality of the open space will increase the availability of the pods

A functional multi-space office can be recognised thanks to its carefully planned allocation of spaces and shared rules.

Sound management is, however, just as important: without appropriate sound management solutions in all spaces, people will not be able to work.

The impacts of sound management are more pronounced in open-plan work environments, and it can be said that the functionality and usability of open areas are essential for the functionality of the whole multi-space office.

If the working conditions in open and quiet spaces are too different, this may lead to a situation where the need to work in peace and quiet overrides the shared rules, and people start to “book” the quiet pods for their own personal use. This can cause friction between employees.

If, on the other hand, the open space is comfortable to work in, the spaces assigned for quiet tasks and the meeting rooms will only be used for their intended purpose.

The functionality of open spaces can easily be enhanced by adding a sufficient number of soundproof spaces such as phone booths, small meeting rooms and other small spaces.

The rules of the open-plan office begin to take shape organically when people learn to make phone calls and have meetings in the pods.

It is also a good idea to agree that the quiet pods will only be used when they are really needed, which ensures that they are available to everyone. People can move to a quiet space to work on any task that takes more than an hour.

Soundproofing is a priority

When comparing quiet pods, it is a good idea to prioritise their soundproofing qualities.

Erecting four walls in the middle of an office does not do the trick; the space must also be properly soundproofed for it to improve the working conditions in the open space.

It is recommended that you always make sure that the phone booth or meeting room really does retain conversations and keep voices in the open space outside. For example, the Module pods offer a soundproof level of 43 dB, which makes them private spaces even in the noisiest of open-plan offices.

We advise you to involve a specialist in the early stages of the planning process, and also recommend testing the soundproofing of the pods you are considering. 

What kind of quiet pod would suit your office?

Our Module specialists will help you to design your office – book an appointment here!

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