by Lauri Goodman Lampson

Planning Design Research Corporation

Everyone talks about the knowledge gap – or better yet, the cavern – that exists in the energy industry. It’s been written about and discussed in countless forums, many of which emphasize the importance of knowledge sharing and improved collaboration between those on their way out and those on their way in.

Improving collaboration comes in many different forms. For some in the oil and gas business, collaboration has come by breaking down walls, literally, to get personnel out of enclosed, private offices and into workplace settings where knowledge can truly be shared.

If you’re thinking of transforming your workplace and doing away with private offices, don’t think of it as a move to an “open” workplace. And it’s certainly not a move to “cubicles.” Instead, think of your transition out of private offices as a move toward creating a more collaborative environment.

That doesn’t mean the process is easy. Transitioning employees out of private offices is never a popular decision, even if the change is beneficial to the organization.

Against this backdrop, here are five of the more critical steps oil and gas companies should take when considering a transition from a private office workplace.

1. Get your employees involved in the transition. Create teams where impacted personnel can have a say. Give them choices in their personal workspaces, create focus groups and challenge your employees to solve issues associated with the change.

2. Create a model workspace. Use a controlled space to set up what a new workspace will look like, down to the smallest detail. Set up times for employees to experience the model. Demonstrate how the new workspace can be customized to their needs and how it will help them work better as a team.

3. Offset the takeaway of private space with givebacks. Consider ergonomic furnishings, improved technology tools, more access to natural light, or a more appropriate environment that better supports the work. The transition out of private offices may allow for greater workplace flexibility, additional amenities or a better location. The transition will be easier if employees are convinced there is something in it for them.

4. Measure the success of the change. Conduct pre and post-occupancy surveys to measure how employees feel about the transition. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn, particularly from comments taken before the transition. Just one reminder, conduct your pre-occupancy survey early enough to actually incorporate suggestions into your workplace transition.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Clear enough? Hold regular Town Hall meetings where on-the-spot questions are addressed. Keep your messages clear, positive and consistent. Make sure your workers understand the business reason for change and how it will positively impact every level of the organization -- from top management all the way down.

Improved collaboration is a management issue, not an architectural one. If you’re going to transition your organization out of private offices, then do it for the right reason. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll shore up your company’s knowledge gap.

Lauri Goodman Lampson,, is a veteran workplace designer with Planning Design Research Corporation, a corporate architecture firm which creates high-performance work environments for energy companies and organizations of all sizes.