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When it comes to employee hierarchy, it's clear that small businesses are much more flexible than large companies. Still, each type of organization needs a leader – a definite point of reference for every single team member. This relation should be reflected in the way in which you structure the headquarters of your small business. Should you sit together with the rest of the team, or have a private room? Here are key pros and cons of each of these two options to help you be a great boss and keep your team close at the same time.
Silence and tranquility
It's annoying to have to take your calls outside every single time in hope to escape office noises. You need a quiet space where you can take important calls in peace. Also, a private office provides privacy for confidential or personal conversations with anyone ranging from your accountants and lawyers to customers.
If you're easily distracted by background buzz, a private office is a must. You won't get disturbed by people passing by your desk, or entering and leaving the office. Everyday conversation might quickly become too much for your to handle – and that's when a private office saves you.
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A private office sets a clear physical boundary between you and the rest of the team. While this is usually dismissed as making you seem less approachable and friendly, your employees should remember that you're their boss, not their friend and they should think twice before requesting your time. This kind of barrier enhances your authority and is easily created with a separate office.
Distance from the team
Naturally, the divide between you and your team works both ways – it also creates a distance between you, possibly affecting your relationship. If you'd like to keep your team members close, consider an open plan office.
Potential impact on communication
Sitting closed in your private office, you might miss out on important communications that make their way to the team and get to you only after a while. Smooth communication requires as little barriers as possible, and a separate office is definitely a huge one.
Open Plan Office
The following research study clearly supports the claim that office proximity significantly affects the quality of collaboration. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0014279). As a leader, you need to know what's happening with your business, instead of staying locked away from your team most of the time. Surrounded by your employees, you'll naturally pick up on many things and notice stuff that would otherwise be out of your reach.
RELATED: Are Open Office Layouts Efficient?
Better relationship with the team
Naturally, being around your employees the entire time will help you develop a better relationship with them. You'll seem more approachable and your staff will be more likely to come to you with issues as soon as they occur. Just because you're easy to talk to and down to earth doesn't mean that you need to compromise on your authority.
Practical for space saving
All in all, open plan offices are excellent for saving space. Getting rid of a private office often means creating space for more workstations than you thought could fit. Sharing technologies ranging from printers to plug points is another good point if you're trying to keep your operation costs to the minimum.
Lack of privacy
There are certain things you don't want your team to hear you discussing. Conversations with lawyers, accountants or potential partners are clearly confidential, and you need some quiet and private space to manage them. Obviously, that's difficult to achieve in an open plan office, where everyone can basically hear everyone else talking on their phones.
No clear boundary
In open plan office layout you're sitting together with your team. Naturally, you might be tempted to become friends with them and join the office life. But this is a mistake which might seriously compromise your authority, leading to some serious problems. If you think that being around your team all the time and maintaining your status will be challenging for you, just opt for a private office and manage your employees with peace of mind.
By now it should be clear that office design can have a great impact on team dynamics at your small business. Weight all the pros and cons of these two options carefully and you'll find a solution that supports your key business goals.
About the author: James Pointon is an experienced customer consultant at OpenAgent – real estate agents comparison website, where he helps customers navigate easily in the real estate sector. In addition, James is often found sharing his knowledge and expertise through blogging.