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Buds In - The New Way to Focus in Open Offices?

January 27, 2017

We’ve all been there. You’re crashing on a last minute project at work and the person next to you is going on about their plans for the weekend, clearly not getting the hint that you’re in the thick of it. So what do you do? Pop in those ear buds and not so subtly say, “I’m busy!”

This scenario is becoming more and more common as offices transition to open floor plans and shared workspaces. While the majority of today’s workers welcome collaboration and open communication there will always be a place for focused, individual work. So, how do organizations accommodate these different needs? Start by identifying the different work styles within your office.

At KI, we’ve identified four common work styles - FOCUS, INTERACTION, REGENERATIVE and IDEATION. Regardless of industry, job title or geographic location, employees will most likely function within several, if not all of these styles. The Focus work style is becoming more difficult to accommodate but with some simple planning and employee feedback on how they prefer to work, companies can provide spaces specifically for this need.

Let’s break down the Focus work style. Focused work is mainly accomplished alone, requiring little input from others. Employees want control over noise levels, interruptions and distractions. Based on the office space and type of worker, we’ve pinpointed several subsets of the Focus work style with recommendations for creating productive work environments.

Buds In – When the ear buds go in, this employee creates their own work zone.

Recommendation: Open workstations with privacy options – When an open office is the norm, provide solutions with optional privacy screens that can be adjusted to various heights or integrate panels to define individual work space. This allows employees to transition between different work styles and signal to others their desired level of privacy.

Boxed In – Privacy is needed to get work done. This employee prefers a defined environment with walls and a door.

Recommendation: Semi-private offices – Create small spaces with doors and walls outside of traditional workstations where employees can retreat. The use of these specific spaces communicates that an employee is concentrating and prefers to not be interrupted.

Plugged In – A transient or remote employee comes back to the office to work and connect.

Recommendation: Untethered work spaces – Create individual work areas where employees can touch down with their smart phone, tablet or laptop with quick access to power and a small surface.

Click here for more information on KI’s work styles or visit our Pinterest board for examples of office environments tailored to specific work styles.

by Jonathan Webb  Director - Workplace

Jonathan Webb leads KI’s strategic business unit, serving the business market. Jonathan studies workplace trends, uncovers product gaps and develops solutions with the KI team. Jonathan takes part in advanced workplace strategies and documents his findings through white papers, articles and other publications. His recent publications, Understanding Active Design: The Rise of Human Sustainability and Collegiate Design: The New Driver for Workplace Design, have put Jonathan in the media spotlight. Partnering with thought leaders like AECOM, his publications cover diverse subjects including sit/stand benefits, designing training environments and defining work styles. Jonathan holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh School of Business and is a LEED accredited professional.

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