modern  officeAs office layouts go in the 21st century, there’s nothing better than the open office plan. It’s easy on the budget, aesthetically pleasing and is thought to promote active socialization and spontaneous collaboration. But, let’s be real, working in close quarters with others isn’t always great — especially with a global pandemic.

Back in the day, open offices weren’t hygienic or designed to cater to employees. Early factories in the 19th and 20th centuries packed workers into warehouses like sardines, a practice that caught on as the job market shifted. In recent years, the trend came back in full force. Tech companies, in particular, spearheaded the movement with a focus on aesthetics and minimalism. And, before long, open offices became a way to attract fresh young employees.

Research has shown that open office plans still have pitfalls, especially in regard to employee productivity and job satisfaction. So how can designers and office managers balance aesthetics and function? It all comes down to finding the right balance.

Here are three proven methods we suggest to get your office back on track:

Create intentional spaces
Developing a hybrid office plan is all about creating spaces with a clear purpose. In some cases, rearranging the office to create distinct collaborative and private spaces is all that is necessary. We recommend investing in modular furnishings, so employees are able to adapt their surroundings to suit their evolving needs. It is also important to create a clear flow of movement from one space to the next, so foot traffic and conversation happens away from spaces meant for quiet and concentration.

Prioritize health and privacy
As you shift your office space, there’s no need to throw out shared desks. Instead, create private zones for each employee with desk dividers. The best part is that these solo partitions can be moved easily for small group work and added to accommodate additional employees. As a result of the pandemic, manufacturers have been hard at work creating beautiful desk dividers that serve a function, such as this air-filtering option from Zonez and this acoustic friendly three-sided screen from Turf.

Embrace innovative design
You might not believe it, but there is a way to create the illusion of openness without actually having an open office layout. Glass walls and doors give employees the privacy and quiet of a cubical without sacrificing natural light or aesthetics. For a more adaptable option, look into a stunning new line of partitions from Stylex, which are available in a wide selection of colors and styles.

With these additions, an open floor plan can evolve into a bustling, intentional hybrid office space. Because when employees have the freedom to find the best fit for them, there can be no doubt that productivity, happiness and safety will improve as a result.