Did you know that open plan offices have been around since as far back as 1906? This was when architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Larkin Administration Building in New York. The workplace was open plan with few walls and just included innovations such as air conditioning and built-in desks.

In more recent times, open plan offices have been embraced by organisations in order to reduce costs and increase flexibility, as well as to increase collaboration along with productivity. However, there are many who will say that open plan spaces have the complete opposite effect on productivity– and they are not wrong.

According to a recent survey by Future Workplace, the main problem workers have with open plan offices is the noise and distractions caused by co-workers. Nearly all (99%!) of the more than 5,000 employees surveyed reported they get distracted while working at their workspace in open plan spaces. 51% said that these distractions make it difficult to listen to or be heard whilst on calls, and a further 48% said their ability to focus is negatively impacted.

yoka desk

Having said this, the survey also showed that millennials (56%) and Generation Z (55%) were more tolerant of these distractions. This is thought to be because they are more used to this environment and have figured out ways to block the noise and mitigate the distractions.

With all this being said about the disruption open plan offices cause for the majority, how can we mitigate these challenges within the workspace and improve productivity in open plan offices? This article provides the answer.

1. Invest in acoustic office furniture to increase productivity in open plan offices

When designed correctly, open plan offices encourage the sharing of ideas amongst colleagues and can help to create an authentic work community that develops as a result.

Noise and interruptions are the biggest productivity killers in open plan layouts, with 70% of office workers claiming they get interrupted frequently. Luckily, there are ways to improve productivity in the workplace with acoustic office furniture solutions such as sound absorbing wall panels and acoustic screens. At Haiken, we have a large variety of sound absorbing office furniture that will help to make an open plan office space more productive:

  • Renwick: these 50mm acoustic wall panels are designed to reduce and control reverberated echo noises.
  • Focus Floor: Light and flexible, making it easy to move around when needing to create a new configuration in a flexible office.
  • Arc: a sound absorbing roof that creates a feeling of enclosure. The Arc can be placed freestanding or against a wall to easily create a quiet atmosphere.
Arc sound absorption

If you want to reduce sound from collaborating workers, we also recommend investing in acoustic pods. Our Focus Pod is an easily placed, functional screen with a seat and table that provides a calm and snug feeling within open plan offices for those who want to work separately. Alternatively, there is also our Scott Meeting Pod that can house 2-4 people and is made from carefully selected materials that offer optimum sound absorption. Scott Meeting Pod is particularly good for those looking to collaborate in peace.

2.  Create dedicated spaces to improve productivity in open plan offices

To improve productivity in open plan offices, dedicated spaces for different working styles need to be created. An effective open office should strike the perfect balance between focussed working and collaboration, using different zones depending on the work that needs to be completed. For example:

wolfe desk
  • Zone 1 – The ‘focus zone’: the more stereotypical office layout with single desks (preferably height-adjustable to increase flexibility and employee satisfaction) and ergonomic task seating so that focussed work can take place comfortably.
  • Zone 2 – The ‘collaboration zone’: this can either include soft seating surrounded by sound absorption screens, or even meeting pods where employees can go to collaborate together without disturbing other members of staff.
  • Zone 3 – The Timeout Zone: this can be the area where employees go to get away from their screens and take a few minutes of relaxation during their busy working day. Ensuring employees have a relaxing space to retreat to during their breaks will increase productivity, as it ensures when they return to their work they will feel more refreshed. It can also be used as an area for focussed working away from the desk.

Hopefully, these zone examples will give you an idea of how an open plan office can be designed to create a space that works for everybody.

Lua Soft Seating

3. Place plants strategically around the open plan office to improve productivity.

Did you know that plants can be used to improve productivity too? We already know that plants can contribute to a number of health benefits such as reducing stress and preventing sick days. But they can also be used to create natural vision-blocking walls which will help employees remain focussed, instead of being distracted by others.

We recommend the Zorla for this as not only is it a mobile floor screen with sound absorbing effects, but it can also be filled with natural or fake plants to turn it into a decorative piece of furniture. As you can see from the image below, the Zorla can be used to create an acoustic wall between different spaces.

Zorla Planter

4. Use ergonomic office chairs to improve productivity in open plan offices.

Sitting in uncomfortable chairs for 8 hours a day can negatively impact workers' concentration and productivity. Back strain and discomfort caused by uncomfortable office chairs can lead to demotivation among employees. To address this issue, Haiken offers a range of ergonomic task seating options that are ideal for improving productivity in open plan offices. The Webb 2.0 task chair, in particular, is a popular choice with its supportive and comfortable ergonomic design that includes a 6-position lockable backrest and 3D armrests.

For further details on our available task seating, please don't hesitate to contact our friendly furniture team today.

Office furniture to improve productivity from Haiken

At Haiken, we have a wide range of office furniture solutions that can improve productivity in any workplace – especially open plan offices! Whether it be ergonomic soft seating and task seating, height-adjustable desks, or acoustic solutions, we have the solution perfect for you.

Please contact us today to find out more about the office furniture solutions we provide, our furniture team are always more than happy to help.