Open-plan offices are still a popular blueprint for small and large businesses alike. Over the past few years, opposing studies have stirred conversation regarding whether this design of office is the best option. Taking into account employee productivity, happiness, communication and cost we take a look at the pros and cons and ask, are they good for business?
An open office is a workspace that uses open space instead of placing employees in cubicles or offices. In an open office, you might see rows of desks with almost no partitions. Open offices often have places where employees can gather or change the surrounding environment, such as a living room with breakout room furniture or an open kitchen. Trendy modern offices may include fun common areas with pool tables, air hockey or game consoles.
These spaces are designed to encourage employees to communicate and be creative. It’s not for nothing that open offices have become such a big trend. They promise collaboration and increasingly cohesive teams that can tackle complex problems together. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the benefits and what you can get from opening up the office.
The advantage of open office plans is that they save on office setup costs. It can easily half the price of private offices or pods – due to the space it saves and needing less individual furniture. There is no doubting that you can accommodate more people in a smaller open-plan space.
Open office plans can make employees feel closer and interact more, depending on how they are set up. The closer coworkers sit to each other, the more likely they are to communicate. This means putting employees closer to each other promotes interaction.
In an open office, everyone can hear, which means there is much less room for gossip. When employees stand next to leaders, it can also give a sense of fairness and unity. This can create more comfort and trust between employees and their managers since everyone seems to be on the same level in an open office.
If staff numbers fluctuate at your business you can change the concept and layout with relative ease, asking team members to move desk or even hot desk. There is freedom in an open office and collaboration is encouraged. It’s a blank slate and you can reinvent it whenever and how you want.
Open office concepts are becoming more controversial in the business world. Recent studies of open-plan offices have shown that there are significant drawbacks to opening spaces. There really isn’t a perfect office plan that fits every business. Different organisations have different needs. However, if you are thinking about creating an open office plan, it is helpful to think about the downsides as well.
Open-plan means your office lacks permanence. If your business remains very stable in terms of workload and staff numbers, open-plan offices won’t necessarily save you more – but it’s still likely you’ll be saving space.
Even at low volumes, a conversation can distract employees. There are also visual distractions to deal with, including employees moving around the office. Due to the rise in electronic communication, it’s been reported that face-to-face communication is now decreasing in open-plan offices.
Lack of confidentiality and office etiquette seem to discourage employees from personally engaging in open offices. Fewer people want to distract 30 closest colleagues or have a private conversation by ear. This means that open concepts can hinder collaboration and communication rather than reinforce it.
Flexibility can cause issues amongst workers because it lacks structure. Hot desking often causes more problems than it solves and employees get used to a certain space in the office which can cause upset if changed. This can lead to inefficiency and disengagement of employees, not to mention job satisfaction.
Workers should aim to protect their attention in open-plan, whether it’s with earphones or having a ‘do not disturb’ structure in place. These techniques can help bridge the gap between the pros and cons of open-plan offices, as long as your office isn’t overcrowded. Partitions are a good start in making offices more comfortable between employees in close proximity.