5 Things an Open Office Plan Changed in Addis Ababa

5 Things an Open Office Plan Changed in Addis Ababa

by Amerti Lemma, Communications Coordinator, PSI/Ethiopia

PSI Ethiopia recently moved to a new office building in downtown Addis Ababa, using a new open office space for the first time. Check out what one PSI/E Staff member has learned while working in the new space.


I joined the PSI/Ethiopia office just seven months ago, not long after we moved to a new location in one of the “downtowns” of Addis Ababa, the Bole Medhanialem area. PSI/E’s two floors are in a building that is quite unique among the others. It’s a new office building and we were the first to move in. Unlike other office buildings, the building has been left open for its renters to design it themselves. Because we were the first to move there, it feels that we have set the “open office” tone for the other offices in the building.

PSI brand colors, icons and photos add life to the space. Our 10th and 11th floor view of the city is quite picturesque and inspires creativity, which was not the case in our former short-rise building found in between other taller buildings.

There are both benefits and challenges of working in an open plan. As more and more offices internationally take on this office layout, learn five ways it has changed the way we work.

  1. Connectivity and Community

The connection between people, between projects and between departments has improved as a result of our seating being communal and central. While others with a longer tenure at PSI/E say the same, from my personal experience it is true as well. I worked for my previous organization for three years, and didn’t feel as part of the organization as much as I did in my first week with PSI/E. Team members aren’t just staying in their offices. There is a free flow of people, and a sense of oneness is evident. A direct output of that communication is that we are more efficient. We duplicate efforts less because we have a deeper understanding of what each other is working on.

  1. Equity

A new staff member that joined PSI/E commented in her first week, “it’s refreshing to see how there is equality among peers. Sitting together with your managers sets the tone that there really is no impartiality when it comes to the office space that is allocated.”

  1. Creativity

An increase in the number meeting rooms has resulted in many creative meetings take place. We have a lot of brainstorming sessions to reach innovative insights, whether it is how to come up with a solution for the lack of parking space outside, to more serious things such as finding ways to increase modern contraception for adolescents. This collaboration is central to the way we work, but creativity winds its way into everything we do. Decorating your own space while maintaining cleanliness is important in an open space office and interesting desk space design has spurred inspiration as well.

  1. Noise

Some are convinced of the open concept, while others will find things that are challenging for them. It’s a culture shift. For instance, noise has increased. While transparency increases with greater and more immediate communication, a lack of privacy can be problematic. This is a point of discomfort for many that have moved from the old office to the new. It doesn’t, however, last for more than a few hours. We all have access to those meeting rooms, as well as phone-booths where people can take phone calls and conduct meetings. We recently even created a “library” space, so we have a quiet zone if the need arises.

  1. Decreased sense of ownership

While the space remains communal and seemingly without a hierarchy, we must work to make sure we remain accountable in our given role. A staff member transitioning from the old office to the new space has acknowledged “there can be a decreased sense of ownership over things because many things are shared and in the open.”

Despite all the noise that comes with this office, and the early commute I have to make in order to land one of my favorite parking spots, I’m quite proud to be working at PSI/Ethiopia. I feel that the work coupled with the creative space offers me and my colleagues a sense of pride and fulfillment — one that keeps coming to the office every day with a smile.

Photo credit: Amerti Lemma