Open-Plan Offices: Do They Really Work?
An open-plan office is designed in such a way that everyone operates in the same room. They eliminate private offices and meeting spaces. However, there may be a private conference room to facilitate private discussions or meetings.
Open-plan office concept doesn’t need to be just one large room filled with a bunch of tables, though many have embraced this model. Staffs may have assigned spaces, with customized drawers and even low-level cubicle design just to bring a semblance of privacy. The primary objective of an open-plan office is to give room for communication and collaboration.
Consequently, personal space is maintained at a minimum.
Many technology innovators have been known to hype this concept highly. Google and Facebook are pacesetters for large organizations to have key managers working alongside junior staff. You will find employees working with headphones, each concentrating on the task at hand.
Mark Zuckerberg loves his open-plan office and adores it that way. “It enables better collaborations, a key to building better services for the community,” he argues. But, do open-spaces truly offer advantages that regular cubicles or offices don’t and why open-plan offices are good?
Benefits of Open-Plan Layouts
Recent research shows that the open-plan office layout brings about health benefits to the employees. According to research published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, September 2018, this layout is associated with a high level of physical movement and lower levels of stress outside of work.
The researchers sampled 231 U.S. government workers from four different regions and three different office environments. Results showed that those in open-plan layout with open bench arrangement were 32 percent more active than those in closed offices.
Creativity and Teamwork
Every organization looks forward to bringing workers together and collaboratively build the company. It is a leadership style to build teams where no individual is left behind. It has become most companies’ objective to put every worker at ease. Open office floor has achieved making them feel in a collegial setting rather than a top-down setup.
Employees can share ideas and build each other together easily and faster. These enhance creativity as everyone looks forward to being the best.
Open-Plan Office Drawbacks
Hindrance to Collaboration
In theory, it appears well-intentioned to have an open office. However, it’s difficult to translate into reality. Research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, July 2018, discussing the impact of open workspace on human collaboration, indicated that the setup is a hindrance to collaboration and teamwork.
The research was done in a company where all the employees wore people analytics badges that traced conversations through sensors that transmitted data to the researchers. This was compared in two different setups: open and closed office. Interestingly, rather than communication increasing, it was noticed that conversations through emails and instant messaging (IM) increased significantly in open office design.
It was also noted that when the office was in a closed floor configuration, employees used to meet about 5.8 hours face to face for three weeks. This reduced to 1.7 hours after the office was redesigned to open space.
People feel they are on exhibition when engaged in creative tasks in open-plan offices. Part of their minds becomes anxious and get handcuffed with social pressure. They feel other workers are watching to what extent they will creatively solve a problem. Everyone concentrates on the aspect of looking busy than focusing more on productivity.
The reality of having an open-plan office is that you will face the two sides of the coin; both the pros and the cons. At this juncture, a company should go beyond and decide based on how much they can afford and what really works for them.
Open-plan offices, like any other indoor space plan, require real care and expertise to work the way they are supposed to. Whether it is interior decorators or professional painters for offices, always keep an expert on hand about space organizing and human resources. Designing an office is too much work to be done haphazardly.