Working Without Walls: The pros and cons of open office plans

Posted on April 18, 2017

pros and cons of open office plans

In today’s ever shifting work environment, many companies are shifting away from cubicle-heavy workspaces to open-office floor plans. And although open offices fit in line with the image of a “trendy” and innovative office space, they aren’t for everyone. Before implementing an open office space in your company, there are several things you should consider.

Pros of an Open-Office Floor Plan:

Open offices create an atmosphere of collaboration between all levels of employees. Upper-level individuals and bosses are no longer tucked away in their offices. Everyone is on even ground, which breaks down the boundaries for creative and productive exchange. Additional benefits of this layout include:

  • The wall-less setup makes open offices more cost effective and flexible.
  • The layout promotes “culture collisions,” which are chance encounters amongst employees. With the rise of remote work, spontaneous interactions are a key argument for pro-office people — and not without reason. Having people to provide quick feedback, drop in on a brainstorming session, or to form interesting connections with can give legs to new ideas.
  • “Crumple zones” allow for scalability and more feasible employee expansion.
  • Open spaces increase natural lighting. Studies have shown that natural light can improve overall quality of life, such asthe amount of sleep people get, which has a direct impact on productivity.
  • Budget friendly. Particularly in the startup community, the ability to fit more people into less space — and save the expensive of building walls or setting up cubicles — has a distinct appeal.

Cons of an Open-Office Floor Plan:

For some types of workers, one-third to nearly half of the global population, open-office layouts can create feelings of anxiety. Introverts don’t flourish as easily in an open floor plan. Constant interaction and a free flow of communication can be stifling to their creativity, so they often prefer an isolated workspace. Other downsides to open-office floor plans include:

  • They can be stress inducing and even promote age discrimination.
  • The open layout lacks privacy.
  • The noise levels can be prohibitive for individuals trying to concentrate on work
  • It can seem oppressive.While removing office walls can create a certain sense of freedom, it can also leave people feeling exposed — as if every action is subject to scrutiny.

 Incorporating the Best of Both Worlds:

So, now that you know all about the good and bad features associated with open workspaces — what to do? Luckily, there is a way to design a workspace that balances the creative and productive ideals of open spaces with the needs of employees.

The key, according to experts, is variety. “Companies are adding soundproof rooms, creating quiet zones and rearranging floor plans to appeal to employees eager to escape disruptions at their desk,” said the Wall Street Journal.

In order to strike the optimal balance, consider adding the following features into your work area:

  • Seating clusters for collaboration, along with standing and sitting work stations.
  • Separate open spaces, such as a café for coffee breaks and meals, and a laboratory area with white boards, sofas and worktables
  • Closed-off spaces for quiet tasks and meetings, such as a sound-free library space and conference rooms with glass walls for semi-privacy