The open office concept is driven by the idea that a focus on community, collaboration, and inclusion in the workplace would result in more efficient and cohesive business operations. For believers of the open floor plan, physically tearing down walls is the best way to bring a unified workforce.
However, since its introduction and succeeding popularization in the early 2000s, the open office has raised some controversy and disputes on whether an open workplace is beneficial or disadvantageous have been ongoing for some time now.
Communal work settings have received as much criticism as they have received acclaim, being characterized as everything from inefficient and unpleasant to horrible and disastrous for employees. Opponents of open workplace design argue that people require a certain degree of privacy and solitude in order to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
It is easy to feel confused when trying to establish whether your business would benefit more from open office productivity or from a more community-oriented working atmosphere. Luckily, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of the open office concept, as well as when this working style may help or hurt your organization to help you navigate this decision process.
Advantages of the Open Office
Open-plan workplaces have several intrinsic advantages that make them desirable from the start. The contemporary appeal of the community-driven open floor plan is one of them. Getting employees out of cubicles and in an open-concept architecture consisting of desk pods, workgroups, and hot desks spread across a main working area gives a workplace the decidedly adored modern feel.
Beyond the aesthetics, the most significant advantage of open concept workplaces is how it allows staff to collaborate and communicate quickly and efficiently. Employees are only a short walk away from one another which increases collaborative power. Additionally, when employees are within each other’s eyesight, they are more likely to be prompted to think about working as a team and reminded to engage with their coworkers on matters that affect the company.
Naturally, this means that it is also simpler to communicate. Workers can engage in face-to-face communications where information is condensed into a single, shorter conversation instead of sending multiple back and forth emails and instant messaging, which can be distracting and interruptive. This degree of interpersonal communication reduces misunderstandings and strengthens ties among employees, increasing cohesion and trust.
Another advantage of the open office is how it puts all employees on an equal footing, regardless of job type or rank. When employees from the same department, such as a junior graphic designer and a junior salesperson, share the same workspace, it demonstrates that no single aspect of the business is more vital than the others. This subtle push towards inclusivity quietly strengthens organizational culture.
Moreover, seating leaders beside subordinates also fosters an egalitarian environment. Managers are brought out of their private workstations and integrated with the personnel they supervise in open offices. This not only makes them more human and available, but also promotes responsibility, relatability, and trust.
When it comes to optimizing a floor plan, open concept offices can be more practical and cost-oriented by offering a great opportunity to do more with less. For example, startups with smaller budgets may find greater success using open workplaces rather than trying to accommodate a few secluded offices into their space.
Furthermore, offices are typically occupied by single employees—managers, specialists, and so on. Open concept workplaces of the same size, on the other hand, are perfect for accommodating two or more personnel.
Modern corporate environments are fast-paced and teeming with activity. A modern worker must be able to act and react in the same amount of time. Open office floor plans promote agility and can be extremely useful to businesses that require dexterity. Open workplaces essentially smash down barriers to action, whether it’s mobilizing on a huge project or coming together to cooperate swiftly.
Disadvantages of the Open Office
Ironically, many of the factors that make open office spaces so appealing are also the reasons why some businesses wish to avoid them. Companies have criticized the elimination of individual workplaces in favour of a more communal setting, claiming that it limits productivity and meaningful collaboration. There are concerns that moving too far away from individualism and toward community may leave workers dissatisfied and uninspired to produce their best work.
Perhaps the most common critique about open office spaces is the never-ending barrage of stimuli that employees must deal with. It can quickly become difficult to concentrate with the constant computer whirling, chatter, ringing, and foot traffic of the open office. The inability to shut off all of these cues can lead to a variety of issues, including wandering attention, poor job quality, and a lack of desire, to name a few.
Those who are opponents of open workplace spaces argue that some level of uninterrupted solitude is required for workers to focus on their duties and complete them adequately. This is impossible in an open office, where every sense is constantly stimulated.
It is important that employees feel comfortable and at ease in the office. This requires some level of privacy that unfortunately cannot be provided by open workspaces which sacrifice much of the individual privacy in the name of better interpersonal communication.
Employees are unable to hold a private discussion or respond to a crucial email at their desk without others walking by. Because of the absence of privacy, many employees feel constantly exposed and scrutinized, which causes increased stress and worry.
Health and safety hazards
There are also some concerns raised about the open office being the source of widespread disease, especially during peak cold and flu seasons. When everyone is seated in one open location, the rate at which germs and illnesses spread across an office increases drastically. A mere sneeze or the exchange of office materials in a shared location can be enough to infect the bulk of your workers in one fell swoop, which is undeniably unfavourable altogether.
Deciding on whether or not an open office floor plan is right for your business boils down to the specific nature of your company.
Open offices might work best for small-scale businesses with flexible needs and staff that like working closely together but could pose some issues for larger, more varied organizations with concerns about employee productivity.
As mentioned above, an open office floor plan can be both advantageous and disadvantageous for your company. Therefore, it is crucial that you assess both options in order to make a decision that will benefit your staff in the long run.