Should Your Church Staff Have An Open Or Closed Office Plan?
By: Holly Tate July 3, 2013
One of my favorite things to do is find trending articles in the business world and ask the question, “How does this topic apply to us as church leaders?” A hot topic that’s been floating around the business world this week is the debate of open office plans versus closed office plans.
Two articles by leading news sources were released this week with negative views toward the open office plan. Bloomberg Businessweek published "Ending the Tyranny of the Open Office Plan," and ABC News published "Proof that Open Plan Offices Are Satan's Handiwork." Really? Tyranny? Satan's Handiwork? These sound to me like exaggerated titles describing what seems at surface level to be a frivolous debate.
However, as I began to read more about this topic, I realized how applicable it is to church leaders and any of us passionate about building the best ministry teams possible. I challenge you to think deeper and realize the profound affect that your office culture has on your church staff’s productivity and ability to achieve your church’s vision. Employees who enjoy their work environment have increasingly higher job satisfaction, and thus will perform higher than employees who do not.
Preferences in office plans vary depending on several factors. If your church staff is comprised of people who represent both characteristics of the following categories, you’ve most likely experienced the tension between office plan preferences.
1. Personality – Extroverts vs. Introverts
Extroverts’ primary mode of living is focused externally. They typically gain their energy from being around people, as they are highly influenced by their external environment. Extroverts are usually team driven and tend not to seek intentional time alone. They may feel tired or depressed after spending too much time by themselves.
Introverts’ primary mode of living is focused internally. They are stimulated and energized by being alone, thinking and reflecting on their thoughts and feelings. They may feel drained or tired after being around people for an extended amount of time.
2. Generation – Baby Boomers and Generation X vs. Generation Y
One of the biggest staff tensions we hear about at Vanderbloemen is the generational gap. Generation Y is stepping into senior leadership roles, and most of them typically approach ministry and work differently than the generations before them. If you want to be an effective church leader, you will pay attention to the preferential differences of the generation gap and be intentional about valuing job satisfaction for both sides of the generation gap.
3. Department Demands – Finance vs. Marketing
Specific teams within your church staff may have different office plan preferences. For example, the finance and operations team is often focused on detail-oriented projects where a distraction-free environment is helpful in completing tasks efficiently. Contrastingly, marketing departments tend to be project and team oriented. A free-flowing office may be helpful to their team to allow for easy project collaboration.
It is healthy to have some or all of these preferences present on your church staff, even if it creates tension as a team. Healthy conflict means that you are staffing different personalities that inherently bring unique gifts and skill sets to your team. It is your job as the boss to ensure that you’re facilitating a ministry and work environment that sets your team up for success.
So what is the best office plan for your team? The first step is to assess the benefits of both plans.
A 2008 Knoll Workplace Research study discusses the pros of both plans. I’ve included their findings as well as a few of my own observations to the lists below.
Pros of open office plans:
• Sense of community, camaraderie, and team chemistry
• Better communication and more efficient exchange of information between team members
• Ease of team collaboration
• Faster decision making as less meetings may be needed
Pros of closed office plans:
• Privacy and security of having walls or barriers around you
• Noise reduction
• Overall minimal distractions
• Potentially more space
After reading about this topic this week and reflecting on my personal experiences in both office settings, I’ve concluded that the answer to, “Should my church staff have an open office or closed office plan?” is … yes.
Although I have never visited their campuses, I think Microsoft and Google have successfully created office facilities that appeal to all of the preferences of each category I discussed above. They have created a work environment that has both private office spaces for when employees need a quiet, distraction-free environment as well as open, collaborative spaces for ease of team meetings.
Because every church staff is unique, you'll need to assess the personalities and specific needs of each department on your church staff. Perhaps one department would be best served with an open, collaborative work space, whereas another would benefit from closed offices, free from distraction. Be intentional about what your office plan is doing to your staff culture.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with me? If you want to show off your church office, send pictures of your office plan to firstname.lastname@example.org.