Open plan offices have become increasingly popular with businesses in recent years, with their proponents praising them for creating a more collaborative and communicative work environment. However, this layout style is not without its criticisms as some argue that the lack of privacy and constant distractions can lead to decreased productivity and increased stress levels among employees.
At Cost Cutters UK, we specialise in office furniture and office fitouts. Needless to say, we have a great deal of experience with all kinds of office layouts, so we thought we’d explore the pros and cons of open plan offices and provide a balanced view of this increasingly prevalent workplace design.
Benefits Of Open Plan Offices
Increased collaboration and communication: Open office layouts promote communication and collaboration among staff, making it easier for them to share ideas, knowledge, and expertise. This can lead to better problem-solving, increased innovation, and higher productivity.
Flexibility: Open plan offices can be easily reconfigured to accommodate changes in staff size or company needs. They also provide more space for impromptu meetings and collaborations.
Increased natural light: By removing physical barriers such as walls and doors, natural light is able to flow more freely throughout the space, which can improve employee mood, health, and productivity.
Cost-effectiveness: Open plan offices generally require less square footage per employee than traditional offices, which can result in significant cost savings on real estate expenses.
Improved supervision: Fewer physical barriers allow managers to supervise and monitor employees more easily, which can lead to better performance and accountability. It also helps managers stay in touch with the day-to-day goings on within a business.
While all of the above points are undoubtedly true, it’s worth noting that open plan offices may not be suitable for all types of work or all employees. Some people may find them distracting or noisy, and they may not provide enough privacy or personal space for certain tasks. It’s important for employers and office managers to consider the needs and preferences of their staff when deciding on an office layout. With this in mind, here are some potential downsides:
Downside Of Open Plan Offices
Noise and distractions: Sound is able to travel freely around open spaces, which can make it difficult for employees to concentrate on their work. This can be particularly challenging for tasks that require deep focus or creativity as even normal levels of office chatter can prove distracting.
Lack of privacy: While they do help to encourage collaboration, open plan offices also offer little in the way of privacy. This can be uncomfortable for some employees, especially if they need to have confidential conversations or make sensitive phone calls.
Spread of illness: Airborne illnesses such as the flu or common cold spread more easily around open spaces due to the close proximity of individuals and shared ventilation systems.
Lack of personal space: Open plan offices often have limited personal space, which can make it challenging for employees to find a quiet place to work, take a break, or recharge.
Difficulty in controlling the temperature: It can be difficult to regulate temperature in an open space, especially as different people have different temperature preferences. Physical discomfort can have an adverse effect on work output plus complaints about temperature can be distracting and detrimental to morale.
It’s important for employers to consider these potential downsides when deciding on an office layout and to take steps to mitigate them. For instance, providing designated quiet areas can help to minimise potential distractions, while allowing for some personalisation of workspaces can make the space feel less homogenous or sterile. Other things are slightly more difficult to work around, such as controlling temperature or reducing the spread of illness, but that’s not to say there isn’t anything you can do about them. If you’re looking for ideas on working around these, don’t hesitate to make use of our complementary space planning service.
Office furniture On Cost Cutters UK
With over 25 years experience, Cost Cutters UK is a office furniture specialist and supplier. Below we have included 10 office furniture essentials that no open plan workplace should be without.
Office Desks: Open plan offices typically have a large number of desks to accommodate a large number of employees. Office desks should be comfortable, ergonomically designed, and provide enough workspace for each member of staff. The choice of desk should also reflect the type of work that’ll be carried out and be able to support any necessary kit; such as monitor arms, sit stand desk converters, and so on.
Office Chairs: Comfortable, adjustable office chairs are essential for open plan offices to help prevent discomfort or injuries related to sitting for long periods. Kneeling chairs have also become popular in recent years and while we would not recommend kitting out an office with them exclusively, it’s worth having one or two so that staff can change how they’re sat throughout the day.
Screens & Partitions: To help reduce noise and distractions, dividers such as screens or acoustic panels can be used to create a sense of separation between workstations. Table top screens are also available and can be used to give staff an element of control over their working environment.
Storage Units: Limited storage space is an issue for pretty much every workplace. Storage units such as lockers or cabinets can be used to provide employees with a place to store personal belongings, documents, or office supplies.
Conference & Boardroom Tables: Open plan offices can benefit from having designated meeting areas, such as conference tables, for team meetings or discussions. We’ve seen these placed openly in the centre of a workspace, toward one end behind partition screens, and plenty of other arrangements in between. Whichever you choose, there are bound to be pros and cons so don’t worry if you have to try out different placements before you land on one that works for you.
Breakout furniture: Breakout furniture such as sofas, lounge chairs, coffee tables and even game tables can provide employees with a place to relax, collaborate, and work in a more casual environment. Providing breakout furniture can improve employee morale and productivity, as it offers a space for them to unwind and recharge during the workday.
Whiteboards & Glassboards: Whiteboards, glassboards and other collaboration tools can be helpful for employees to brainstorm ideas or work on projects together. They also help to encourage collaboration between staff, as who doesn’t love writing on a board?
Plants: Adding plants to an open plan office can improve air quality, reduce noise levels, and create a more pleasant working environment. Unless you have a particularly green thumb or intend to make tending the plants one of your team building activities, we’d recommend investing in artificial plants. While they won’t have the same effect on air quality, they do help brighten the place up a little.
Booths & Pods: A fantasic alternative to traditional cubicles and private offices, office booths and pods can be used to provide employees with a quiet, isolated space to focus on their work in otherwise open spaces. They can be used by whoever needs them as and when required, and come in a wide range of designs offering varying degrees of privacy.
Task lighting: Proper lighting is essential as it can have a significant impact on employee health and productivity. Lighting that is too bright or too dim can cause eye strain, headaches, and fatigue, while inadequate lighting can decrease productivity and increase the risk of accidents. Choosing the right lighting is key to creating a comfortable and safe working environment.
Overall, the furniture chosen for an open plan office should be functional, comfortable, and conducive to collaboration, while also helping to mitigate potential downsides such as noise and distractions.