An open office layout can be a sea of interconnectivity: chats, interoffice phones, external calls, conferencing with different departments, personal web browsing, pinging, and the task of constantly trying to get to Inbox Zero.
The Wi-Fi overfloweth, and so does screen time. But this can actually be counterproductive as well as dangerous for employee emotional and mental health. Recent studies suggest unplugging and doing a digital detox to reconnect with human beings and foster deeper working relationships. For most modern offices, the idea of unplugging for productivity seems impossible. But management can consider creating an unplugged zone with a few creative office furniture options.
Here are three ways to use contemporary office furniture and layouts to re-engage employees face to face and help foster work off-screen.
1. Designate the employee lounge as “Wi-Fi Free.”
Even if the employee recreation area is still receiving WiFi signal, you can foster face-to-face interactions among staff and colleagues by designating the employee lounge as a “wi-fi free zone.” Simply put up a sign in the area and make an announcement through your morning meeting and internal communication memo. The benefits to having a wi-fi free zone in your employee lounge are both physical and emotional.
Staff can rest their eyes from screens by focusing on objects further away and adjusting their line of sight. This also allows the muscles to relax because most employees tend to suffer from shoulder and back tension and “email apnea:” they stop breathing normally while checking email and surfing Internet screens at a fast rate.
Staff will also develop communication skills by increasing their face time with fellow employees. Getting to know co-workers beyond office protocol conversations is vital to maintaining an authentic company culture, as well as allowing employees to loosen up and foster a deeper connection for better teamwork. Shy co-workers or new hires? Ensure a comfort zone by providing business books and magazines in the lounge, as well as creative puzzles or even board games.
2. Brainstorm better by banishing devices.
Create truly collaborative workspaces that banish devices such as laptops, cell phones, and even television screens during smaller team meetings. You’ll enjoy brainstorming sessions with your group by encouraging teammates to bring only a pen and paper to the meeting.
Studies have shown that writing by hand engages a different part of the brain and fires up neurons. Why? Because it’s a shift in function that stimulates thinking and creativity. You may notice a transformation in language, ideas and approaches when meeting with staff in this device-free environment. The additional challenge of expressing a project or goal clearly without the use of digital tools we rely heavily upon–ahem, Powerpoint–actually helps to simplify the process so teams can see whether it’s a viable project or goal to even engage with from the beginning. By getting back to the basics, your company can enjoy a fresh approach to problem-solving and harness the power of simplicity.
3. Provide traditional “school desks” with a modern office twist.
Acoustic office furniture is making the waves as more and more offices go for the open-office layout. Acoustic furniture comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and layout options, but is grounded in one principle: reduce noise and therefore distractions.
You can take advantage of acoustic furniture even further by incorporating a piece such as this cozy desk and offer it as a device-free individual workspace. A modern twist on the traditional school desk, this piece is flexible, cozy and made for reducing noise and promoting focus when an employee needs to step away from his or her office desk.
There are many other ways to segment and create device-free work zones in today’s modern office. Let us know your creative solutions.
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