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Open Plan Office: Change Management Proposal

Proposal Scope

Managing change in an organisation is one of the critical components of effective operation because the modern and globalised business environment requires companies to change and adapt to stay strategically competitive. While some companies manage to adopt changes and move to next levels of development, others experience the so-called resistance to change, which significantly hinders the process of change management. Therefore, the management should come up with a change plan that will guide the company through the entire process and ensure that employees are satisfied and compliant with the modifications. This proposal will focus on managing change in EngCo, an organisation that decided to switch to an open plan office setting, but, unfortunately, has to deal with employee resistance. The proposal will be divided into five stages that include the scope, goals, the incorporation of employees’ voice, protection of employee’s psychological health, and principles of informing the approach to change.

According to Petrou, Demerouti, and Schaufeli (2016), modern organisations must be prepared to constantly change and develop. However, despite the extensive research conducted on the ways of communicating the change to employees, it is still little known about how specific change management tools affect workers of a specific organisation (LaClair & Rao, 2002). When exploring the change in the context of the specific organisation, EngCo is an engineering firm, in which every employee has specific work accommodations. While contract staff has an office, some members of the support team have to find other places to work. Therefore, many workers got used to a flexible style of operational flow and are unsatisfied with the decision to move to a single open plan office. The company’s management should pay extra attention to making sure that during the move the thoughts of employees are taken into consideration since their satisfaction remains key for successful business operations.

The change management proposal plan includes a range of opportunities and limitations. The key opportunity for the EngCo’s management is helping the staff to embrace the change because the majority of them met the proposal with resistance. Another opportunity is associated with training the company to become team-oriented and promoting a new corporate policy that encourages cooperation and unrestricted flow of information. On the other end of the spectrum, resistance to change on the part of the employees can hinder the implementation of the plan (Palmer, Dunford, & Buchanan, 2016) and affect the overall performance of the company or employees’ personal perceptions about their job.

Understanding the Goals of Change

The most appropriate goals and performance measures for evaluating the success of the change approach within the context of EngCo scenario should be associated with the transfer of the best practices in the company. As mentioned by Cordery, Cripps, Gibson, and Soo (2015), organisational change must include a component of communities of practice (CoPs) for leveraging expertise among employees. If the open plan office environment will facilitate the usage of CoPs, then it is likely that the change management plan was successful. Moreover, the concepts of social change (employee satisfaction, mental, and physical health) should also become determinants for the success of the change plan, as reported by Stephan, Patterson, Kelly, and Mair (2016).

The decision to move to an open plan office setting should also be assessed from the perspective of employees’ behaviors (neglect, loyalty, voice) as well as their mental fulfillment and appreciation for their job (Akhtar, Bal, & Long, 2016). The indicator of employees’ behaviour is relevant because it directly affects the operational flow of the business and influences the overall productivity. As mentioned in the article by Isenhour, Stone, and Lien (2012), managing workplace conflicts, enhancing commitment to change, and considering employees’ opinions must be regarded of the highest importance when it comes to HR management.

It has already been discussed that open plan office settings can facilitate interactions between employees in those organisations that lack cooperation as well as maintain their strategic advantage on the basis of competition among workers. An open space will definitely change the usual flow of information and force workers to interact with each other more. According to the research conducted by Yang and Konrad (2011), interaction among employees are usually three-way processes that include involvement, feedback, and decision-making.

All of the three components should be monitored by the EngCo’s management for determining the effectiveness of change. If the levels of involvement, feedback, and decision-making increase after the move to an open-plan office, the implementation of change can be considered successful. Thus, the key goal of change in this particular scenario is facilitating interactions between workers and guiding them to improved performance. The past style of work organisation could be considered hectic because employees had different accommodations and operated in a different environment. A large open-plan setting will put everyone on the same level so that the main focus will be put on the achievement of corporate goals and the increase of cooperation among employees.

Incorporating Employees’ Voice Into Change

Previous research on change management has shown that taking the opinions of employees into consideration when implementing change is the key to a fruitful result. As reported by Caldwell and Liu (2010), employees’ openness to experience and conscientiousness during change impact the actions of the company’s management so that the personality traits, varying influences, and overall job satisfaction are valued. Incorporating employees’ voice into the change can be done through an extensive range of methods, like, for example, employee surveys.

It is important to take the opinions of employees seriously with regards to change and maintain trusting relationships because their opposition towards open plan office implementation can possibly limit the overall performance of the company after employees move to a new location. For this reason, an employee survey was designed to address the concerns workers have as well as to assess their overall attitudes.

Paste Survey Here

The items included in the survey serve a purpose of identifying what concerns employees the most when it comes to the move to an open plan office setting. The survey included statements regarding the most common beliefs and opinions about open plan settings, for example, “I am deeply concerned with the issue of privacy in an open-plan office setting.” If the majority of workers agree with the statements that present open plan offices in a negative light, the management has to take their opinions into account and facilitate better communication and decision-making regarding the change. According to the study conducted by Kellner, Townsend, Wilkinson, Greenfield, and Lawrence (2016), the Human Resource Management process requires a shared philosophy between employers and workers for achieving high-performance outcomes, continuous improvement, and innovation. The shared philosophy must include consistency in communication and the achievement of consensus; conducting an employee survey will ensure that the management and employees come to an agreement regarding the change.

The items included in the survey come from different sources that examined the concept of open plan offices in great detail (published and web journals, online articles, etc.). After the results of the survey are gathered, the management of EngCo should carefully analyse the findings and begin the process of open communication with employees regardless of the results. Whether workers will resist the change or not, it is crucial to take all of their thoughts into account and base the decisions on what employees regard as appropriate solutions.

Protecting Employees’ Mental Health During the Change

According to the findings of the research conducted by Seo, Taylor, Hill, Zhang, Tesluk, and Lorinkova (2012), employers play a crucial role in shaping affective employee reactions and their commitment to change. Therefore, protection of employee’s mental health during change implementation is not only necessary but also required with regards to effective Human Resource Management. Because employees are put under increased stress in their daily professional life and because stress is one of the key contributors to mental health problems, EngCo’s management should look into various ways of keeping the psychological integrity of workers under control during the change. Resolving mental health issues in the corporate setting is the partnership among workers and their management (Triplett, 2015), so it is always important to think in advance and account for possible mental health challenges before the change implementation.

Hiring a mental health professional who will assess the employees’ condition can be a primary step in change implementation. It is better to have an idea about with what workers are struggling before putting them under pressure and facilitating change. Such assessments can be conducted through interviews and group meetings with the workers; however, it will be better for the management not to be present at such meetings so that the staff do not feel pressurised to pretend that everything is fine. It is important to remember that mental health problems affect many employees, although the majority of them prefer to hide some issues from fellow co-workers to avoid being judged (Harvard Medical School, 2010). There is a certain level of stigma surrounding employees who reveal information about their mental health issues, which is very damaging for workers personally as well as the image of an organisation.

Because an open plan office setting implies closer cooperation and puts workers into one large space, employees will be exposed to their co-workers and may need to develop some adaptation strategies that will help them to interact better with others. Individuals already experiencing mental health problems are prone to increased stress and exhaustion, so moving such people to an open-plan office setting without preparation will contribute to the development of more stress. It is crucial for the EngCo’s HR manager to pay extra attention to employees’ mental health to ensure that the process of change occurs smoothly.

The minimisation of psychological hazards during change should occur in accordance with the organisational factors that impact the mental health of EngCo’s staff. These factors range from psychological support to workload management, so this stage of change management plan should be implemented on the highest level possible. The list of change management plan below will guide the HR manager to decrease the number of psychological hazards:

  • Enhance psychological support through employing an independent mental health specialist who will conduct coaching sessions and consult employees (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016);
  • Establish trusting relationships between the staff members by promoting organisational culture;
  • Communicate clear expectations to employees and guide their way to improved mental health through effective change leadership;
  • Promote civility and respect – a move to an open plan office will bring fruitful results if there is an environment of mutual support and understanding;
  • Encourage development and growth; it is important to explain to EngCo’s employees that an open plan office setting is a new stage of development and should not be regarded as an attempt to put the staff under increased pressure;
  • Reward employees for their cooperation by offering them additional accommodations in a new office setting;
  • Take a role of a facilitator and guide change gradually, taking emotional stability into account;
  • Perform a workload assessment and determine what areas of organisational performance require some improvements.

Principles Informing the Approach to Change

As mentioned by John Kotter (2007) in his Harvard Business Review article on change management, those companies that are trying to survive must learn to implement change at least once in their ‘lifetime’. The assessment of EngCo’s organisational structure has shown that there is no unified approach towards workload management (some employees work in an office while others do not have a designated workspace). Therefore, change is needed to improve the company’s overall performance and create a dynamic workplace that will facilitate teamwork and increase productivity.

Since the announcement of the change was confronted by employees with resistance, the key issue the EngCo’s management has to overcome is meeting the staff’s demands and making sure that the move to an open plan office goes as smoothly as possible. Moreover, a problem of psychological instability and stress associated with change may significantly hinder the plan’s success. In this respect, the management should cooperate with psychologists to assess the staff’s mental health before, during, and after change implementation.

The key principle of approach to change should be based on the idea that change is a process that should be carefully planned, especially when employees are in the center of this change (Prosci, 2014). While the goal of increasing the level or performance is the reason for why the company decided to move to an open plan setting, it is crucial to remember that without the EngCo’s employees’ compliance; it will be impossible to achieve success. The staff should be put in the center of change process since their satisfaction is what will indicate whether the plan succeeded.

According to Torben (2014), organisational change initiatives rarely succeed, and companies implementing the change either “change or die” (para. 2). Since EngCo’s employees confronted the management’s decision with resistance, the majority of efforts regarding the move to an open plan office should be targeted at making sure that workers are comfortable and compliant. By incorporating employees’ voice and taking into account the state of their mental health, the management will establish trusting relationships with workers and ensure that after the move to an open plan office the team will become motivated to enhance their performance and be excited to start working in a new setting.


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Torben, R. (2014). Web.

Triplett, I. (2015). Web.

Yang, Y., & Konrad, A. (2010). Diversity and organisational innovation: The role of employee involvement. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 32(8), 1062-1083.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Open Plan Office: Change Management'. 6 August.

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