If you're making workers do more in less space, make sure they can hear themselves think. Sound-proofing is a better alternative to earplugs and headphones--although, that said, there's nothing wrong with workers electing to pop them on when they're concentrating on a tight deadline or cranking out a crucial report.
Start with the small stuff: Use wall-to-wall or area carpets and curtains, along with other fabric dÃƒÂ©cor, to buffer sound's ability to travel. If you're in a new office and are investing to get the space properly configured, investigate sound-proof foam or sound-proof panels, which can be mounted on (or within) walls as well as on ceilings.
Do Double-Duty With Open Spaces
You don't need a big conference room to convene an all-hands-on-deck meeting. These days, more and more offices are using lobby areas that double as meeting spaces for impromptu gatherings and stand-up (read: quick but important) meetings. If your enterprise is big enough, you can use a building atrium as a space where workers can attend or at least view the main event taking place on the ground floor. Open spaces aren't just for meetings, though. Lobby and other open space areas do great double-duty if your company is hosting a neighborhood, chamber or local industry event or lecture--and can allow you to not only make connections in the community but also convey an impression of your brand to guests. (Decorate carefully!)
93. Do a Stand-up Job
Gone are the days of slow sit down meetings, where long-winded debates and meandering conversations wander off-topic. Modern meetings are fast, frequent, and may call for just a handful of people at a time. Aside from quick desk-side huddles, many businesses are using quick, short stand up meetings and making more space to facilitate them. Consider standing-height tables in collaborative areas, offer write-on/wipe-off materials on walls, and make standing-height tables available in kitchen/coffee stations (in addition to regular tables) so workers can spread out while sipping a cup of joe or nibbling on a sandwich. Wouldn't it be nice to see them collaborating and bonding rather than slumping back to a desk and computer screen?
Make Walls Flexible
Many teams and sub-teams working on high-priority projects need their own temporary war room environment. Consider using moveable walls on casters or sliders to create cordoned-off areas where workers can hunker down together and use a combination of collaborative workspaces, tables, workstations, sitting areas, and write-on/wipe-off walls for quick modeling and decision making. If moveable walls aren't an option, curtains, shelving or other dividing systems can help create a sense of dynamic, temporary space where a team can burn through a deadline. Having the capacity to make an ad hoc in-office environment can help communicate a sense of mission and urgency, and spur motivation among the workers driving important projects.
Consider Low Cube Walls
Traditional 6-foot-tall cubicle walls are isolating, but having no separation whatsoever between workers' desks can lead to a perceived lack of privacy. Many companies now use low (4-foot-tall) cubicle walls to create a sense of separation between workspaces but allow enough visibility among workers so they don't feel isolated. In addition, lower cube walls tend to allow for eye contact between those sitting in their workspaces and those circulating within the office--meaning that passers-by will self-regulate their inside voices out of respect and acknowledgment for the fact that cube-dwellers are hard at work.