Open place office – villain or hero ?
Post written by Paragon Interiors   September 4, 2015

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The open plan environment has been embraced by many companies as the future for workplace design.

The world of work has shifted towards open plan, trying to fit more employees into an office space, without taking into consideration the consequences that this way of working has on employees who need to concentrate.

According to a  meta-analysis of over 100 studies by Organisational Psychologist, Matthew Davis in 2011,open plan has been proven to decrease employee productivity, concentration, creative thinking and job satisfaction. This, as a result of negative factors experienced in the shared workspace:

  • Printing and sounds from other electronic devices may cause distraction
  • Co-worker produced noise;
  • Eating at your desk;
  • Shouting across the open plan;
  • Lengthy conversations at your desk;
  • Privacy is difficult to obtain;
  • Infections can spread like wildfire in an open plan environment.

There are, however, some great advantages to open plan that need to be taken into account. These are in addition to the most obvious motivation for open plan – the space and thus, cost-saving benefits.

Some of the benefits of open plan are:

  • Open plan enhances the flow of information and teamwork
  • Employees will feel compelled to interact and share knowledge on a more regular basis
  • Open flow of communication – easier access to more informal discussions with management
  • Increased visibility provides the foundation for transparency in the organisation
  • Fast access to information – communication is easier between teams/departments, increased collaboration
  • Greater flexibility to accommodate new employees

If employers want the open plan environment to be conducive to productivity, they need to consider implementing multiple workspace areas to eliminate the negative effects of poorly designed open plan and enhance the positive.

Areas that should be considered:

  • Collaboration spaces- creating workspaces that promote informal interactions. Innovation depends on exchanging ideas
  • Quiet rooms- allowing knowledge workers to work away from the noisy open plan environment when required, gives them valuable focus time
  • Work cafes- employees can have an informal meeting or enjoy their lunch as a team
  • Meeting rooms- boardrooms and breakaway spaces for formal and informal discussion
  • Huddle rooms- used for project meetings or information sessions
  • Phone booths- creating workspaces that allow workers to take private calls 

The work environment is constantly changing, therefore designing to cater for expansion or changing work patterns is important. When designing your office, you need to ask yourself how you can increase your employee’s productivity and, in turn, increase your company’s ROI through office design. It’s never too late to make a strategic decision that will benefit your company in the future.