Over the past 10 years more companies have moved to an open office architecture for a number of reasons such as cost savings, encouraging/enforcing collaboration, and breaking down silos. While many companies want to develop the next innovative and open workplace like Google did, some actually believe, “Google Got It Wrong.” However, those who believe Google got it wrong may have missed a crucial component when describing why other companies have failed in matching Google’s success of the open workplace design. The problem is that other companies have been trying to mirror Google, which is not a one-size fits all workplace. Google’s open architecture works because it matches the company’s culture.

It is crucial that all workspace designs are customized to the company’s culture and business model or is a shift towards the type of culture the company is trying to create.


Expected Reaction from the Workforce

While matching culture to design is crucial, it is just as important to keep in mind the entire workforce when making a change, not just one group, like Millennials. A 2015 article from Forbes, identified that both Millennials and Boomers have different outlooks on working in a workplace with open architecture.

Studies have shown that Boomers struggle with an open workplace, since they value their workplace privacy and see office space as representative of one’s status and level of achievement. Boomers have always been working towards a corner office or at the very least a window. Without this status they find it difficult to measure success at work outside of compensation.

As for Millennials, this group seems to be the biggest proponent of the open workplace as they understand the importance of collaboration and working in teams. Millennials want to connect with colleagues outside of the office and find that working in an open office helps them make connections. While Millennials acknowledge that conversations and noise near-by can be distracting, they believe the trade-offs of fostering collaboration within/outside of their teams is worth it, according to a 2012 study from Emerald Insight.

Implementing a New Workplace Environment

So, are you thinking about make the change? Keep in mind that business functions and leadership have a place in ensuring a smooth transition and putting employees in the best position to succeed in a new environment. As it may be a culture shock to most employees, there are ways to avoid the day-one madness. To this end, each business function such as, tech, operation/facility, HR, and leadership should have a key role in design discussions and keeping employees informed.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • IT involved in initial conversations for office redesign as they will help to determine layout and connectivity
  • Operations/Facility should identify options other than desks, such as sofas and breakout rooms to encourage open collaboration
  • HR involved to identify where management/teams are placed keeping in mind that grouping teams together fosters more collaboration
  • Leadership should train managers by providing them with questions they should expect from employees, such as the use of specific spaces (rooms, sofas, desks, etc.). Leaders should also encourage employees to interact with colleagues in a shared space. This new space will be a bit shocking for employees (especially Boomers)