Pros and Cons of Open Plan Office Space
When taking new office space, one of the first decisions that will need to be made is how it should be configured.
For small companies, it may well not make sense to have anything other than open plan as, when there are only a handful of people in the company, there’s no need to divide the space into individual offices. However, for larger companies or departments, there are positives and negatives to open plan office space arrangements. Some of these are outlined below.
Advantages of open plan office space
Firstly, and importantly, open plan offices are more economical and flexible. Without the dividing walls, there is room to house more employees as there is significantly less dead space. An open plan layout will also be more cost effective to heat and cool than individual offices and will also be lighter due to fewer internal walls blocking out the natural light.
Open plan offices also allow for improved communication and team spirit. Without closed doors, or glass walls, communication and general office camaraderie can flow easily throughout the office resulting in a happier workforce and better internal communications. Team spirit is naturally stronger as employees can easily ask neighbouring colleagues for help, or advice, on different day to day problems and tasks as well as forging personal friendships. Employees can also be arranged into departmental ‘pods’ allowing easier information flow and supervision from managers.
Open plan also offers a blank canvass for any future changes to office layouts. Should, for any reason, there be a need to change layouts, the open plan style is more flexible and can be easily and cost effectively reconfigured to incorporate any changes needed. For example, this could be to include new team members, or to move two departments closer together.
Finally, an open plan layout encourages a far less hierarchical company structure, with all employees, no matter their position, working in the same room. Management offices can have a divisive influence over the rest of the work force and can prevent the ad hoc conversations that are so beneficial to businesses.
Disadvantages of open plan office space
By nature of the fact that there are a number of people in one room, open plan offices can be noisy and can cause serious distraction for employees. Multiple conversations, ringing telephones, group discussions and small ad hoc meetings can all contribute to noise levels and can make concentration challenging. This may be particularly problematic should a team need silence in which to properly function, for example a call centre.
In the same vein, as noise can spread throughout a room, so can colds and flu easily pass from person to person in an open plan office. In the winter months this could be devastating to a small business as this could result in higher number of sick days amongst employees.
Privacy can be hard to maintain in situations where employees don’t have their own offices. Computer screens are visible to anyone walking past and telephone calls are easily overheard. For employees dealing with confidential material, it may be necessary to have cubicle style walls around them so sensitive company information is not available for general view.
As you can see from this article, there are a number of positives and negatives to both open plan office space and individual offices. What’s clear though is that companies should undertake full research into what would work best for them, and what suits their employees. Regardless of the decision taken, the work force should be motivated and happy and that can easily be achieved in both environments.
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