When it comes to office and workplace design, one of the big trends right now is open-concept. An open office can different forms, but some general features tend to characterize it — for example, collaborative workspaces, minimalist modular-style work areas, and of course minimum separation.
The idea of open office space and the use of open plan office furniture has become more popular as businesses have increasingly focused on the concept of collaboration and also flexibility in the workplace.
Open office design can also be used to promote specific components of corporate culture. It’s a definite move in the opposite direction from cubicles, which became synonymous with workplace misery and a lack of creativity.
Some people love the idea, and others don’t—so what are the pros and cons of open office design?
What Are the Pros of an Open Office Design?
The following are some of the most significant benefits of going with open office design.
If there was one benefit of an open office design to highlight above all others, it’s the improved collaboration it can bring.
Employers are constantly looking for ways to improve employee collaboration, and an open office design breaks down the actual physical barriers that can hinder working together.
When there aren’t walls, or at least not many, it allows everyone to feel like they’re on an equal playing field, including the bosses. There isn’t the sense of separation that can prevent people from sharing thoughts and ideas. It can promote innovation thanks to the collaborative nature of open office design.
There are some logistical and financial reasons to appreciate the open office design from the perspective of businesses. It’s less expensive in general to design and furnish an open-concept office space.
There’s a lot you don’t need such as all the cubicles, walls and individual desks.
The most successful, competitive and innovative businesses tend to be the ones that are flexible, agile and scalable. An office plan that’s open can help with all of these things. Modular furniture can quickly be moved and changed as needed, both over the short- and long-term.
You can grow and still fit more employees into a well-designed open office space, and layouts can change rapidly as can the way teams are laid out.
The look and feel of an open office can be appealing to employees and visitors to the workspace. It tends to feel modern, open and airy.
These spaces make good use of natural light, and they have a sleek, updated atmosphere.
What Are the Downsides of an Open Office Space?
So just as there are upsides, there are downsides to this modern take on office design.
Not Everyone Loves Collaboration
All people tend to work differently, and they tend to be comfortable with varying levels of interaction in the workplace. If you have introverts on your team, they’re likely to feel uncomfortable with open office space.
If a business has employees, who are introverts, or even who just like their own space and time, having an open space can diminish their creativity and productivity, some people thrive with collaboration and others who don’t.
Not all time at work is spent on collaborative projects, idea-sharing, and brainstorming. If employees are working on things that require focus and concentration, that gets pretty tough in an open workspace.
A study conducted in 2014 found that employees who worked in an open-concept space missed an average of 86 minutes of productivity because of noise distractions.
Noise distractions didn’t just include talking from other employees. It also added things like cell phones are ringing.
A study from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employees working in open spaces lost a staggering three to five hours a day of productive working time.
So with both strong pros and cons, what’s the possible solution? The best option for a lot of businesses moving forward is likely a combination. There can be some space that’s open and fosters collaboration and communication, and then when employees need to concentrate or improve their productivity, there are more private spaces available.
This also works well in terms of giving employees the opportunity to choose what works best for them, which can in and of itself improve productivity and satisfaction. Designers and company leaders might also consider asking for employee input on a design project.