A recent article in Forbes magazine says that about 70 percent of U.S. companies opt for an open-plan design workplace. On this Workforce Wednesday, we look at how this layout solves some common problems facing Alaska offices.

"The cost of real estate has become so expensive in, not only Anchorage, but in Alaska in general," says Deanna Wlad, a founding architect of Anchorage-based Spark Design.

With less space to work with, some employers are trading individual offices for more versatile, common areas that employees can share.

That’s the case at the administrative offices of the Southcentral Foundation, which Wlad and her team designed. 

Employees work in pods where they can hear and see each other from their desks. With fewer walls between co-workers, the work space can get noisy fast. 

"Even if it's just overhearing somebody's conversation about a client, you know what's going on," Wlad explained.

She says acoustics is critical.

“That's a big part of what we do now," Wlad said. "So, soft work surfaces around, providing some sort of partition panel between workers that allows some separation, but it still doesn’t eliminate the visual separation that we need."

In addition, Wlad recommends creating quiet spaces where employees can find their focus or make a private phone call. 

Despite distractions, Wlad says an open floorplan is better for team-building and collaboration, boosts productivity and improves company culture.

The key, Wlad says, may be in employees’ freedom to choose where to work, rather than being confined to a private office.

"You as the employee are responsible to go to the environment you need,” she said.

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