If your business is thinking of taking office space, moving offices or refurbishing, you’ll be coming up against one particular question that everyone will have an opinion on: Shall we go open plan? With no distinct rooms or enclosed spaces, open plan designs have workstations positioned together in one unified area, with perhaps short screens or panels providing the only partitioning.
There’s always been a great deal of debate over what the perfect office environment should consist of. Opinions are divided between those who think an open plan design fosters team working and those who think such an environment is distracting. While you make up your mind as to which option may work best for your company, here’s a recap of the pros and cons of open plan office design.
+ Better Communication
An open environment encourages communication, the creative flow of ideas, the sharing of opinions and a cooperative environment. Everyone feels involved, included, consulted. The increased collaboration can lead to business innovation and advancement.
The lack of walls or other physical barriers makes it easier for staff to interact and intermingle, generating a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. A quick query or informal request for advice is much easier and more natural than having to knock on a door or schedule a meeting in a separate room.
+ Team Spirit
Particularly in sales environments where there is always an element of competition, open plan offices can have a reinforcing effect and a shared sense of purpose. Pitching members of staff or teams against each other or pulling together to reach targets can lead to real team achievements.
+ Easier Management
In terms of supervision, open plan gives you the overview of what everyone is doing – there’s nowhere to hide, make a quick personal phone call, check a Facebook page or do some online shopping! Reduced opportunities for time wasting means that more gets done in the working day.
+ Increased Flexibility
Having flexible office space means that desks can be moved around easily to reconfigure the layout. Whether you need to add a few more staff into the room, reallocate work space to create a meeting area or group desk together in teams, all it takes is a few minutes and a bit of muscle power to adapt the space to suit your needs.
+ Budget Friendliness
If your business is growing, you may need extra office space. But with an open plan design, the flexible accommodation can be stretched to accommodate more staff (see above), enabling you to delay the office move. Additionally, open plan offices tend to be cheaper to rent as well as offering savings when it comes to heating, lighting, office cleaning and commercial carpet cleaning. Shared resources (IT equipment such as printers and copiers) can also keep costs down.
Some offices can be noisy places, especially if there is a lot of telephone work going on. Noise from phone calls or conversations can be very distracting. The larger the office, the louder the background noise from clattering keyboards, phones ringing, people talking… and productivity can take a nose dive as a result.
It’s hard, and sometimes impossible, to keep sensitive material confidential. Whether you’re dealing with client emails, need to have private telephone conversations or process business sensitive financial or HR information, open plan environments may not be the right place to do this.
Working at close quarters with several other people means that you may share more than you bargained for. With germs circulating freely in the office, they are more likely to spread among your colleagues, meaning an outbreak of disease may hit more than one person at a time. Worst case scenario is that the whole office is off sick!
– Negative Interactions
With everyone in the same room, it is sometimes the loudest people who can dominate proceedings. Bullying may be inadvertently missed in a group situation where ostensibly harmless bantering is a daily occurrence. Quiet staff can be overpowered by boisterous colleagues. If cliques start to form, positive communications and team spirit may suffer.