Oh, the stress of it Featured

9:59am EDT July 22, 2002

Changing to an open-office arrangement from a traditional setting can save on space and lease rental costs, make facilities management more flexible and improve interaction among teams. But it also can create stress for employees.

Here are seven steps to help you ease that stress and foster involvement.

1. Make sure to plan every step of the way. Your plan should consist of a formal proposal that incorporates a buy-in by managers and employees affected by the change, an approval process and a timetable with details on packing and moving.

2. Involve managers as early in the process as possible. Managers will find it difficult to find fault if they’re actively involved.

3. Show everyone the architects’ drawings and interior designers’ plans. This should help put their minds at ease and encourage involvement and feedback.

4. Survey managers and employees to pinpoint needs and potential problems. Do this through one-on-one interviews, questionnaires and focus groups.

5. Make sure you address status issues. Since managers and employees often link office arrangements with their positions in the company, make sure they perceive that you are replacing what you take away (such as their offices) with something of greater or equal value.

6. Periodically update managers and employees on progress. Continually informing people about the transition is critical to their acceptance.

7. Face up to privacy and security issues. Managers are sure to wonder how they will conduct confidential meetings and hold private conversations in an open-office setting. Make sure you consider—and explain to employees—how furniture manufacturers now address security needs by providing locking drawers and overhead storage units.

Lori Anthony is a corporate issues specialist at Pittsburgh-based Integrated Office Concepts, a commercial furniture consulting and sales company. Reach her at (412) 765-2200.