Open Concept Office Positives and Negatives
Posted December 3rd, 2015 by Rachael Fischer
Right now, 70% of Americans work in open concept office spaces. Whether you work in one yourself or aspire to, chances are you’ve heard about the open concept trend that’s been sweeping across workplaces worldwide. At first glance these open concept offices, equipped with cold brew iced coffee kegs and foosball tables create intrigue and excitement, but are they helpful to a work attitude or harmful to one’s workflow?
Let’s take a look at the specifics:
Positives of open concept offices
- Access to senior staff & creating opportunities for
- Ability to fit more employees in one work space
- Lower work space costs
- More photogenic offices
- Allows for cross department collaboration and understanding of different types of roles
- May form unexpected bonds among colleagues
- Promotes transparency between role hierarchies
Negatives of open concept offices
- Invites interruptions
- Difficult to differentiate when it’s appropriate to approach someone
- Inconsiderate habits that would normally go unnoticed may be disruptive to others
- May discourage collaboration because of fear of interrupting
- No privacy
- Blurs company hierarchies
- Gives no option for different personality types to thrive
- More vulnerability to illness
- Mixing departments may cause concentration problems (for example, placing sales near accounting)
There are obviously pros and cons to every work environment. Whether or not an open concept office is right for you and your company really depends on the type of work you do.
Unsurprisingly, creative companies were among the first to adapt to open concept offices but this type of work space doesn’t translate the same for all industries. While an open concept office may work well for creative teams, it may not be the best environment for those who work quietly and need concentration, and distractions may affect productivity.
As more offices convert to modern design and industries grow, the future of the work spaces has become an interesting topic. If an open concept office plan isn’t right for your company, there are still options to make your office more inviting to collaboration:
- Balance between open concept and private offices, depending on role and hierarchy.
- One way to make employees feel as though collaboration is more accessible without alienating those who may be more introverted is to decrease the height of cubicles or partitions. This way, employees are more visible but not automatically available and still have their own space within the office.
- Companies are also utilizing “smart glass” which is glass that can turn opaque with the flip of a switch to create a more private environment in fishbowl-type offices that have become increasingly more popular.
- Companies may also want to consider offering separate collaboration areas to limit disturbance in the office as a whole.
It’s interesting to note that proximity alone does not automatically encourage collaboration. Companies must still work on their culture in order to encourage good working behavior and fluidity between departments. Some question that the forced interactivity of some environments is actually doing more to drive people apart than it is to bring them together. Inviting headphones into the mix may create a barrier between neighbors even though they sit in close range of each other.
It’s no surprise that happiness, or lack thereof, impacts the way people work. In a survey, 50% of employees said sound was an issue in an open concept office, while 30% said they had an issue with the lack of visual privacy open offices permit. On the flip side, of those with private offices, less than 10% cited ease of interaction as a problem in their office environment.
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Check out our complete list of services or call 617.926.5555 today, to talk to a commercial relocation specialist and start planning your move or reconfiguration.
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