Is an Open Office Right for You?

In recent years, the trend of the open office has taken over. Many believe the open office plan fosters a culture of collaboration, transparency, and equality among coworkers. However, an open office comes with its fair share of issues. In some cases, the lack of privacy, interruptions, and general noise heighten levels of anxiety among employees. So what’s better- an open office layout or separate cubicles and offices? Here’s what you need to know in order to determine which layout is right for you.

One of the benefits to open office plans is that an open office maximizes space while minimizing costs. Rather than paying for partitions for cubicles or for walls to separate offices, a space can simply be filled with tables and chairs without any extra cost.

However, cost efficiency is not the only benefit to an open office floor plan. The trend stems from the idea that placing creative people in close proximity to one another will foster a collaborative community in which more ideas are shared, built on, and improved. Not to mention, whereas coworkers may become jealous or self-conscious due to the size of a colleague’s office or the placement of their cubicle, the open office space creates a sense of equality and camaraderie among coworkers. However, the open office plan is not perfect. In fact, many employees in open offices cite the lack of privacy, frequent interruptions, and the noise level as major cons in this kind of layout.

The main issue lies in distraction. With so many people working, making calls, communicating, and performing all sorts of activities in one space, it is very easy to be distracted, especially in large offices. Due to the noise, most people plug in their headphones and turn up the music, drowning out the rest of their coworkers, killing the creative collaboration these spaces are supposed to foster. Here at Lee & Associates, we utilize an open office space and cut out any distractions with the use of a white noise systems, so there are aways around distractions in this layout. However, this layout won’t work for all companies. With Medical or Legal practices for instance, there are privacy concerns that could prevent the concept from being implemented.

However, many companies have found that when it is done “right,” the benefits of an open office floor plan can outweigh these potential drawbacks. A successful open office layout is both structured and diverse. In an open office, employees need to have diversification in where and how they are working. Set up different areas or zones designated for different kinds of work; create a quiet area where people can work without noise and distractions; have conference rooms where people can conduct sales calls or collaborative meetings. The list can become extensive.

While the word structure may sound taboo in the age of laidback startup companies, a productive workplace does need to establish a few rules in order to be productive; employees need to understand that the quiet area is designed to be just that- quiet. In addition to structure and diversity, management needs to be out in the open in order to create a successful open office operation. When managers or supervisors are available and present, employees will feel more connected to their superiors and more comfortable when approaching them.

In the end, it is up to the individual company to discover the office layout that works best for them. No list or opinionated article will tell you if an open office or a cubicle office will make your company as productive and collaborative as possible. Talk to employees and coworkers to understand the needs of your office, and create the space accordingly. And if you decide that an open office plan is the best choice for you, make sure the space works for you.  

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