The pros and cons of open-office floor plans

August 22, 2018


Office desks and computers in an empty modern open office space with carpet floor.

In a recent article, we wrote about how the design of the office often impacts which company millennials want to work for. One of the things younger employees tend to like an open floor plan. However, a few new studies have shown that open floor plans may not be as effective as they were once touted to be. The pros and cons of can help you determine if an open floor plan is right for your facility.

 

The Pros

One of the main benefits of an open floor plan is that it fosters collaboration. Rather than force employees to visit other offices to share ideas, the thinking behind open floor plans is that they can simply talk to each other.

 

This can lead to “culture collisions,” or encounters among employees, as seen in successful companies like Zappos. The idea that when employees from different teams have the chance to interact, they are more understanding of each other’s challenges and contributions, leading to more creative thinking, new ideas, and community. Culture collisions can, so the thinking goes, “break down silos.”

 

They’re cheaper than having to build cubicles and more scalable. They offer “crumple zones,” so if you suddenly have an explosion in your headcount, you’re able to fit more people into an open space rather than in a design with cubicles or offices.

 

Finally, they offer an abundance of natural lighting, which is important for employee morale.

 

The Cons

Yes, they make it easy for employees to talk to each other, but this can often be more problematic than productive, especially if you’re seated next to a worker who likes to talk.

 

This floor plan can be stress-inducing. Constant interaction with coworkers can lead to less productivity, which then leads to an increase in stress.

 

They offer zero privacy, and no haven from noise distractions, and make it difficult for employees to actually focus on important tasks. According to a 2014 study conducted by Steelcase and Ipsos, employees in open-office spaces missed an average of 86 minutes of productive time due to distractions, such as ringing cell phones, loud printers, or a coworker’s voice. The Society for Human Resource Management puts that number as high as 3 to 5 hours a day.

 

Mix and match

Companies who have had success with open-space design tend to have a mix of both open and closed spaces. Seating employees in clusters can give you opportunities for cultural collisions. And offering places like cafes for coffee breaks, and “lab” areas with whiteboards, can offer easy and relaxed places for colleagues to interact and not mind their noise level. But you need to have closed-off spaces where workers can go to focus if they need to, or meeting rooms so the noise won’t distract other workers.

 

For help on creating the perfect layout for your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.