Error Omissions
Error Omissions
Submit your information below so we can contact you with a FREE quote
[All fields are required.]
Actual Annual Revenue:
Verify:
=
I have read and agreed to theTerms & Conditions
Error Omissions
Error Omissions

Open-Plan Work Environments and Employment Practices

Open-Plan Work Environments and Employment Practices

Open-Space Layouts Could Pose Employee-Related Risks

Over the last 20 years, companies large and small have moved to an open-space work environment, tearing down cubicle walls and other barriers to encourage greater innovation and a more collaborative atmosphere among employees, in addition to, of course, saving on space and real estate costs. In fact, the International Management Facility Association estimates that 70% of American employees work in open-plan environments.

The open-space work environment, however, does come with several drawbacks and issues to consider, including those involving employment practices. First, there is the issue of privacy, which many companies rely upon. If you’re working in an open-space environment, private conversations regarding company policies, management reviews, etc. are difficult to have. Employees also face a lack of privacy, which is listed among their major complaints regarding an open-space work layout.

What’s more, for many employees a noisy environment and one where there are constant interruptions is difficult to work in, especially for tasks involving a great deal of concentration. Indeed, a study conducted by Washington-based architecture, design, planning and consulting firm Gensler found that office layouts without walls could be rendered ineffective if open design schemes didn’t also allow for enough privacy to let employees focus on their individual task. In fact, when questioned employees overwhelming indicate their dissatisfaction with their physical environment when going from a personal office to an open-plan layout. Moreover, in a University of Calgary study, employees reported increased stress and less satisfaction on the job after making the move, and their dissatisfaction did not abate after a six-month adjustment period.

This type of dissatisfaction could lead to potential employee practices liability exposures. For example, a disgruntled employee can claim that his company’s work environment has caused him or her emotional or mental distress (however hard this may be to prove, allegations could be made and would have to be investigated and perhaps defended). Other claims may possibly include invasion of privacy, which when it comes to employee-related matters falls under the “unreasonable intrusion” category. Here, the employee must show that an employer intentionally intruded upon his or her solitude, seclusion, or private affairs or concerns and that the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. This could involve, among other things, eavesdropping, which is easier to do in an open-layout work environment. Also, under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), an organization must make a reasonable accommodation to an “otherwise qualified individual with a disability”. Any open-space layout must take this into consideration for employees that may require reasonable accommodations that fall outside of this type of environment.

When looking to move towards an open-space work layout, be sure to continue your company’s strong employment best practices. Also, bear in mind that the key in making this type of environment work is to create a sort of hybrid environment, and provide employees with the freedom to determine how and where they get things done. “Balanced workplaces where employees have the autonomy to choose their workspace based on the task or project at hand are more effective and higher performing,” according to the Gensler survey. When done right, an open floor-plan office should include strategically placed quiet rooms for “heads down” work, huddle rooms for small meetings or impromptu discussions, larger conference rooms, and social areas where collaboration and innovation can take place. In addition, these open-space environments should integrate telecommuting and flexible work programs so that managers and employees can coordinate the type of work that needs to happen with the spaces and times that are available. For example, an employee working on a large project requiring uninterrupted concentration should be able to shift his hours to work in the office before it gets noisy or work from home until the deadline is met.

Axis Insurance Services, LLC specializes in providing firms across all industry sectors with Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance. As the work spaces environment evolves for companies throughout the U.S., new potential employee-related liability exposures can arise. We can help you look at your employment practices and provide you with the proper coverage solutions to protect your firm’s assets in the event of a loss. Please give us a call at: (877) 787-5258.

Sources: Fortune, Forbes, CNN, HR Executive On-line

Comments

comments

Blogged on: February 11, 2014 by Mike Smith
Error Omissions
Error Omissions
Submit your information below so we can contact you with a FREE quote
[All fields are required.]
Actual Annual Revenue:
Verify:
=
I have read and agreed to theTerms & Conditions
Error Omissions
Error Omissions