A lack of cubicle walls in an office can potentially create a lack of social boundaries. It might not be immediately clear, but with an open office layout your employees may lose some of the focus that comes with more private workspaces.
In an article for The Wall Street Journal on the topic of “oversharing,” Sue Shellenbarger discusses how certain employees in open office settings feel compelled to talk frequently to their colleagues.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with social interaction, the types of encounters noted by this piece center around someone who can’t help chatting and doesn’t notice that they are interrupting or inconveniencing others around them.
Part of what can make this difficult to manage is the delicate matter of singling out the responsible person. Executives can struggle with this, too, especially if it’s a higher-level employee doing the gabbing.
A similar article for the Australian news source the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Michele Grow, who heads a health company, regarding one possible method that managers can use to address this issue in the workplace.
“If you want to be really careful about what you are going to say, write down a couple of key words and say it out aloud,” Grow told the source. “You will able to get the tone right. You will be able to get the order right.”
To give employees the space they need to practice better communication and avoid distractions, managers who run an open office can also look to used cubicles as a possible solution. Cubicles afford more privacy and create a partition between workers. Increased privacy and subtle partitions reinforce boundary-setting and more focused work habits.