Office Design: Pros and Cons of Open Plan Office

06 January 2019 / By Kelly Taylor
open plan office, open space office, office design

Open plan offices have become a trend in recent office design. We’re led to believe – mainly by the tech giants over at Silicon Valley – that getting rid of the walls and putting all employees in the same room boosts teamwork and increases interaction.

You could think it makes sense: if you place people in the same space for many hours, they will have no choice but to start talking, right?

Wrong.

If your goal is to make your team more collaborative, an open space office is not actually the best choice for you. However, it is not all that bad. The concept of an open space office has its fans and haters, and they all have good reasons to feel the way they do.

In this post, we are not going to tell you know what to do with your workspace. Instead, we will explain all the pros and cons of open plan offices, so you could make an informed decision for yourself.

Pros of Open Plan Office

open plan office, open space office, office design
To open or not to open? The question of open plan office.

#1 – Everyone is equal

Every employee matters, though then why do some employees have private offices while others are cooped up in their cubicles? The concept of open plan office eliminates this problem. There is no room for elitism when everybody shares the same space.

#2 – They are cost-effective

Even if you wanted to give each employee a private office, often it is unrealistic, especially if on a budget. If you are looking to reduce costs, an open space office might be a good choice for you. Save money and tell people you have chosen open office design because of the point #1 on this list. Shh – We won’t tell anyone.

#3 – No room for slacking!

Your employees are less likely to browse Facebook, be on their phone, or simply kill time when they know everybody can see them. This fact can potentially increase their productivity. You don’t pay them to be lazy, do you?

#4 – They look trendy

Open plan office spaces often have a clean and stylish look. It can impress your clients and partners, as well as potential hires. Offices with cubicles look outdated comparing to the ones with an open layout. You’ve got to move with the times.

Cons of Open Office Plan Spaces

open plan office, open space office, office design
Don’t hurry to switch to open space office. Consider all the drawbacks first.

#1 – They Kill Collaboration

Let’s finally get to the elephant in the room. Many businesses consider switching to the open office design to boost communication among their employees. But do open space offices inspire collaboration?

According to the study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, face-to-face communication time decreased by 70% in the participating open plan offices while email use increased by 22%-50%. “Open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email”, – the study co-authors said.

Moreover, the quality of collaboration went down as well. The executives reported that productivity, as measured by their performance management system, had also decreased. As a result, the open space concept that was supposed to boost collaboration has proven to be actually killing it.

#2 – There’s No Privacy

What we have learned from so many businesses ordering gradient surface film from us is that people value their privacy. Even when they build walls made of glass inside their offices, they still want to be able to find privacy behind them. The lack of thereof can be pretty stressful for employees.

It is not a pleasant feeling to be constantly aware that someone might be looking over your shoulder at any given moment. Many people may feel pressured to demonstrate productivity and get frustrated when they think they fail to do so.

This is how an open plan office can create anxiety, paranoia, and other stress-related problems. And think of all the poor introverts in your office!

#3 – Too many distractions

It can be hard to focus in an open space environment since it can get quite noisy. You hear your co-workers talking to each other and having phone conversations, and all the tiny noises blend into a never-ending loud buzz that can become distractive. Distracted workers tend to be less productive, which could be the last thing you want for your business.

#4 – One gets sick – everybody gets sick

Sure, you can remind your employees to sanitize their desks and wash their hands and ask them to stay home if they get sick, but there is never a guarantee they will listen to you. Besides, germs are sneaky. You can end up with your entire staff taking sick days at the same time because there is no way to stop those germs from spreading around an open-plan office.

Summary

If you want to pay less and have a stylish-looking office environment where you can say that every employee matters, and easily monitor each of them to make sure nobody’s slacking, open space office can be a right choice for you.

However, if your goals are collaboration and productivity, and you don’t want your employees to get sick physically and/or emotionally, you might think twice before jumping into this popular office design trend.

In the end, there are other ways to spark collaboration among your office workers. For example, try hot-desking – the practice in an office of allocating desks to workers when they are required or on a rotating system, rather than giving each worker their own desk. Or get them a collaboration wall, or find new team-building exercises that serve your purpose.

And remember: at MetWest we are always happy to help you create the workspace that perfectly matches your needs. We offer wall coverings and floor graphics, glass film and solar control window film. Contact us and let’s discuss your office design project!

About The Author

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor is CEO for two companies, an innovator, and driven by her passion for improving the aesthetic and function of her clients’ spaces – a process she calls “WOWification”. As a CEO for Metropolitan West, she leads her team of professionals daily on the front line, providing products and services for design firms, construction businesses, and facility management companies by supplying and installing mural wall graphics, decorative glass films, solar control films and any other film that covers glass, walls, floors, ceilings and doors. Her most recent innovative product is peerhatch, a dry-erase writable wall covering that includes a patented graphical layer to promote collaboration in team environments.