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How you structure your new office space impacts your corporate culture and future growth, so think carefully about how you build this environment.

Setting up a new office space can be a significant moment for your business. Whether you're expanding from a previous location or establishing your operation for the first time, the choices you make will lay the foundation for future growth, so think carefully about how you structure the space.

Cubicles vs. Open Office Plans vs. Closed-Door Offices

One of the first decisions you'll make when setting up your new office space is whether to opt for cubicles or an open office plan. In recent years, open plans have become the go-to design for offices. Open plan advocates believed that without cubicle partitions and office walls dividing them, employees would become more collaborative due to an increased synergy between departments.

If you lead a small team, the open office plan may be the right option. When a handful of people are managing multiple responsibilities and rely on working together often, having one another at arm's length expedites their output. Additionally, open offices also offer cost-saving benefits — shared  workspaces reduce the amount of equipment and supplies you need to purchase for each employee, generating less energy and lowering your monthly utility expenses.

However, recent research shows that open offices can hinder focus and productivity. Try as we might, humans are terrible multitaskers. Employees can't hold conversations with their coworkers, write reports and manage clients at the same time. The more we switch between tasks, the longer it takes to complete any of them. The same holds true if we're constantly distracted by peripheral conversations, interruptions and ambient noises. In fact, such distractions increase stress levels and impede people's abilities to complete tasks.

Researchers found that employees in open offices were less satisfied with their setups because they struggled to focus and felt that their work environments lacked privacy. If employees can't be alone with their thoughts, they might not be able to perform at the level you need. Cubicles, on the other hand, offer some measure of privacy, as they allow employees their own personal spaces in which to work. However, they do little to combat audible distractions, so closed-door offices represent the optimal choice for productivity.

That's not to say you should abandon the idea of common workspaces. If you opt for cubicles or closed-door offices, consider establishing an inviting common area with tables, chairs and other amenities workers can use when they need to get away from their desks or want to brainstorm in a group. Make it easy for them to collaborate when the project calls for it and to work in solitude when that is the more effective approach.

Manifesting Your Culture

How you structure your office also impacts your company's culture. Although open plans may decrease productivity, they can spur increased engagement among coworkers. Suspicious, unfriendly environments jeopardize physical and mental health, which can lead to significant losses in terms of the company's output and financial solvency. Large companies in the U.S. stand to lose $3.5 million a year in employee absenteeism, and stress plays an increasingly significant role in workers calling out. No matter how you choose to lay out your office space, make sure to emphasize communication and a team-oriented attitude among all of your staff members.

If you decide to take the open plan approach, create guidelines for how employees can work together harmoniously. Teach them best practices for working in that type of space, such as taking phone calls in a designated area, not interrupting coworkers when they're in the middle of a task, and taking lengthy conversations into a break area or boardroom. That will facilitate productivity and respectful work habits and can support a collaborative, open culture.

If you choose to assign people closed-door offices or cubicles, create opportunities for people to chat and work together from time to time. Organize team lunches and off-site activities to encourage positive relationships among all of your team members. You might also set an open-door policy that encourages coworkers to drop by one another's offices when their doors are open to chat and exchange ideas.

Planning for Growth

No matter which layout you choose to go with, you'll want to design your office space with the future in mind. Ideally, you'll add to your existing team during the coming years, which will mean revising your layout to accommodate new hires. Depending on where your company operates, commercial office space can be quite costly, so you don't want to gamble on a massive office in the hopes of one day filling the space. Allow yourself enough room to add more desks and workspaces as the business evolves. Just make sure you're adjusting the space and culture to grow along with it.

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