Just about every large corporation is transitioning from traditional office space to more modern spaces featuring an open office plan with an agile working strategy. That’s because companies are all facing the same issues with office space:

  • An increasingly mobile workforce means as much as 60% of traditional office space sits empty every day. Everyone wants to make better use of all that wasted space.
  • A need to control rising property costs.
  • A desire to increase collaboration among workers to generate ideas and boost innovation.

Moving to a more modern, open office plan can be an important step toward achieving these goals. Open offices with agile working can reduce space requirements and costs, as well as creating an atmosphere where people naturally communicate and share ideas. However, some of the concerns about the open office concept include a lack of privacy and distracted employees.

How do you get the benefits of the open office plan while minimizing the pain points? Read on to learn about best practices that go a long way toward improving employee satisfaction and productivity. Also, we’ll reveal how the open office plan can benefit senior leaders in unexpected ways.

Tips for improving satisfaction & productivity in an open office plan

1. Enhance the open office plan with ABW

For many companies, the answer is adding Activity-Based Working (ABW) features to the open office concept. That means providing spaces designed for a specific activity, such enclosed “phone booths” for private phone calls, comfortable lounges for team brainstorming, and quiet areas for concentration.

These modern spaces combine the best features of the open office plan with task-oriented spaces. The well-designed ABW workspace improves the open office concept since it also provides the equally important spaces for quiet and focus in addition to spaces for collaboration.

When ABW is combined with a non-assigned seating model (also known as agile or flexible working), many of the problems associated with the open office plan are eliminated. That’s because people can choose where to sit based on the work they need to do at any given time.

Learn more: Why ABW Is A Better Alternative to Open Office Design

Even if you’re not quite ready to go full-on with ABW and agile working, you can begin with small steps in the right direction. Adding breakout spaces and quiet areas can improve productivity and employee satisfaction with the open office plan.


2. Embrace flexibility

Keeping employees happy and productive in an open office plan may require shifting your corporate culture. Giving people the flexibility to work off-site when needed can mitigate problems with distraction in the open office. However, that shift must be fully supported by corporate leaders.

“The leaders of the organisation must live and breathe flexibility,” according to CRE expert Roland Chua. “Their practice of flexible working arrangements must be highly visible, consistent, and regular. This will drive the culture of flexibility into the organisation and infiltrate into the mindsets of each individual.”

It’s also essential that flexible work policies be fully documented as an expected way of working, rather than a right or a privilege. In this environment, workers feel trusted and appreciated, and much more willing and able to give their very best performance.

Learn more: 5 Ways to Get Management Buy-In for Flexible Working Arrangements

3. Adopt technology that supports your workforce and your future needs

Moving to more modern office spaces and ways of working may seem like a daunting task. As you plan your journey to the workplace of the future, it’s imperative to put technology in place that helps you better understand space requirements and enables you to implement more efficient and productive modern spaces. You also need tools that support employees in these new spaces. Here are the essential components:

Workplace management technology that supports agile working
In the open office plan of the future, you’ll be setting up shared neighborhoods for each team or a group of teams to share. That means you need space management software that doesn’t require you to assign a person to each seat. Instead, you need the ability to assign teams to a neighborhood.

Scenario planning
Today’s business environment is changing faster than ever before, and property teams need to be ready to support those changes. Scenario planning tools allow you to turn on a dime by easily modeling changes, making smart decisions, and quickly implementing new plans.

Utilization technology
To support an agile environment, you need to provide the right mix of different space types in each area, as well as the right ratios of people to seats for each team. That means you must track real-time space utilization using smart building technology like badge readers, occupancy sensors, beacons and more.


There is no one technology that will capture all the data you need to get a true picture of space utilization. That’s why most companies choose to implement a combination of smart building technology. To make the best use of that data for driving space decisions, look for a workplace management system that integrates multiple data sources to give you a complete picture of your space usage.

Learn more about utilization technology options with this informative resource: Managing Workplace Utilization.

In an agile work environment, you don’t want employees having difficulty finding a place to work each day. Wayfinding tools allow workers to quickly find space based on the type of work they need to do, or to choose a space near people they need to work with. They might also choose to work in a particular area of the building due to comfort issues, such as proximity to amenities or a window. With the right tool, they can find the perfect space in seconds, right from their smartphone.

BONUS: The open office plan also benefits senior executives

One question that always comes up with moving to the open office concept and ABW is: where will the senior execs sit? Should they transition to collaborative working along with their teams or must they stay in isolated offices?

Although people accustomed to private offices may resist at first, there are a whole host of valuable benefits to working alongside the team in an open office plan. Here are just a few:

1. Tuning in to people’s concerns

When leaders sit alongside their teams in an open office plan, they hear more of what everyone’s talking about. That includes both the good and the bad, which leaders don’t always get to hear behind closed doors.

2. Becoming more approachable

When executives are tucked away in the corner office, staff often don’t feel comfortable approaching them with questions or ideas. In an open office plan, employees get to interact with leadership on a more personal level. That familiarity and opportunity creates an open atmosphere that can result in more work getting done.

3. Joining the conversation

This is the true value of collaboration: not just listening, but participating in the ad-hoc conversations going on in the open office plan. Senior leaders are not only more aware of what’s going on, they can more readily offer guidance and weigh in when appropriate.

Download a guide to creating an activity based workplace today.