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July 12, 2019

Business

Should your business go to an open office concept?

Employees in open office concept

What is the open office layout?

If you’re preparing to become a manager or leader in business, there are many things you need to be ready for. Attending school will give you many of the critical skills and knowledge you need to lead employees and be a good manager, but there are other important elements as well. Developing the right office culture and work environment is crucial for success, and doing it correctly takes research and consideration.

With that in mind, many organizations are moving toward the “open office” layout. This is defined as a large office space with no dividers between employees. Sometimes employees have individual desks scattered around the large workspace, and other times employees are lined up on long tables right next to each other. The idea of an open floor plan is to remove the barriers and increase the space for everyone.

The open-plan office a 21st century response to the 20th century cubicle, which isolated employees behind barriers. Millennials were the first generation of workers to see open-plan offices on a larger scale. There has been lots of debate and discussion around the open-plan office and if it truly is a good concept to help workers collaborate and be productive. 

As a current or future business leader it’s vital for you to understand the pros and cons of what can appear to be a simple office concept, and determine what space is best for your employees and work culture.

Open floorplan for office

Benefits of the open office concept.

Leadership.

In most open-plan offices, management and leadership are in the same space as the workers. This allows leaders lead by example. They can demonstrate positive work ethic to employees, dedication, and the kind of work they expect. Having managers out in the open with employees acts as an opportunity for management to show that they are working just as hard as the employees, and helps show what they expect of workers.

The open-plan helps remove the boundaries between managers and employees. Office workers can see their managers as approachable when they are all in the same workspace. It’s simple to just walk up to their manager to chat or ask for help when they need. Managers who are more constantly available to employees see stronger working relationships and better results on both sides.

Cost.

It may not seem like a lot, but the dividers that cubicles require can add up and cost you money in building costs. Especially if you’re a business manager looking for a new office space, consider the savings you can get with an open office layout. When determining the best office layout for your organization, be sure to factor in the costs of adding offices and dividers to a space.

If you opt for an open office layout, you can use the money you save on walls and dividers to invest in other perks for office workers. These added perks can help you retain employees, increase morale, and ultimately be a huge benefit for your office.

Flexibility.

Don’t like the design of your office? When you have an open-plan office it’s easy to switch things around. This can help make employees engaged and excited by changing up their seating arrangement and environment based on current needs and projects. The flexibility that an open office provides can make it much easier for employees to collaborate when working on certain projects together.

This also helps employee morale because they know that if there is an issue, it’s easy to fix it. The simple concept of being able to adjust the layout or seating can help employees feel confident and excited about the office environment.

Interaction.

Coworkers in an open office environment have lots of opportunities to interact on an informal basis. Because there isn’t a barrier separating them they can engage regularly and talk, do fun activities, and work together. This allows them to foster and grow their relationships, increasing trust and understanding.

The better relationships that employees have with each other, the better work that will come from them. Employees who have friends and positive interactions with each other are likely to work well together on projects. The open floor plan helps employees grow those important relationships right from their own desk, and helps everyone be included. 

Working in open office concept

Downsides to open office spaces.

Distractions.

While there are many pros to open office spaces, there are also many cons. The number one issue is that many employees complain that they get very distracted in an open-plan. While the open space allows for informal interactions, it can also make it difficult to opt out of interactions happening right next to you. 

Many workers like to get “in the zone” while working, and can really focus in for a chunk of time while they are working. An open-plan space can interrupt that zoned-in time and cause breaks in employee concentration and focus. 

Illness.

Some studies show that some open office spaces can increase the chances of people to get sick, and can make office workers take more sick days. Because there are minimal or no barrier walls around the workplace, germs can be floating around in all the open spaces.

Similarly, with more coworkers out in the open together, germs that do get out are likely to spread and spread more quickly. An increase of sick employees reduces the productivity that can happen in the workplace. Even if employees don’t need to take a sick day, if they’re a little under the weather they are likely to be far less productive. 

Productivity.

Research shows that while the intention of open offices is to increase productivity, that is often not the case. Open offices can be loud and distracting, which can cause colleagues to put on headphones and stay at their station so they can focus in on work. They often opt to use email and chat instead, to avoid being sucked into the distraction of the work environment around them. 

Studies show that email communication can actually decrease productivity for those who are working in a workplace On simple questions that would be easy to reply to, the need to create an email can slow down the workflow, and the back and forth can waste time.

Employee satisfaction.

Researchers are finding that people who work in open offices are often less satisfied with their office environment and their work. They feel they have less privacy, less opportunity to get done and get work done, and often have less positive interactions with their coworkers. 

It’s not surprising that many employees don’t enjoy open offices. The concept of getting to openly interact is nice, but many colleagues find that the forced interaction of open offices makes their experience at work less positive. They feel they are being watched constantly by others, adding stress, and don’t have the option of when they want to interact with coworkers.

Open office concept

How to make open offices work.

There are obviously pros and cons to open offices, and some employees will love the option while others won’t. The main thing a business manager can do to make open offices work, is be flexible. Listen to employees, pay attention to how people are responding, and be open to feedback. 

Open offices aren’t the only options, business managers can give employees other alternatives for their work environment, like remote work or flexible hours. This allows them to navigate their open office in whatever way works best for them. 

As a future or current business manager, creating a positive office environment is critical to ensuring your employees are happy and successful. 

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