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Breaking down the office walls and shifting to open workspaces are frequent practices in today’s evolving workplace. Effective cross-functional collaboration and communication, and the use of the right technology at the right time, are crucial as organizations move towards more matrixed environments. Panelists gathered from Aspire,, Morton Salt, and Willis Towers Watson, to discuss how workspace design is adapting to meet these needs, and how best to balance the use of technology with human interaction to enable productivity amongst the noise.

What began as an idea to drive cost-savings and utility of corporate real estate, the demand for open workspaces skyrocketed when people implications were correlated to the space. They are now used for a variety of reasons that range from a means to enable innovation, to a recruiting tool to showcase organizational values, a modern edge, and a collaborative and inclusive culture.

“Success in an open workspace is about redefining what it means to be productive and how to get work done,” said Cynthia Hiskes, Chief People Officer at “Moving to an open space can be distracting,” Hiskes continued, “but the opportunities for learning and collaboration that the space allows are worth the tradeoff.”

So, how does one find success in an open workspace?

  • Begin by defining success. “It begins by defining your objectives and what you need to achieve. Then, build your space around that,” said Matt Beliveau, Vice President and Chief HR Officer at Morton Salt.
  • Design with the end in mind. Design considerations and technology decisions should be based on the needs of the audience that will use the space. Productivity is impacted, and workspaces fail when the design doesn’t match the objectives or enable the functional needs of the audience.
  • Allow time for users to acclimate. The change will take time and need direction. Once operating in the space, “leaders need to allow for an acclimation period and may need to actively redirect people to be more collaborative and train them on the new ways of working,” Beliveau continued.
  • Set clear expectations and give timely feedback. Open workspaces tend to self-manage, but they also drive transparency and expose diverse work styles. Cultural implications and etiquette may still need to be addressed. Establishing consistent group norms and clear expectations on team values drives desired behaviors, and timely and direct feedback is recommended to address unproductive behaviors.