The Open-Plan Offices: Are They A Blessing Or Curse?
Nov 20 2018
The open-plan office has become more and more common within new and even old workplaces. This trend in office type began two centuries ago during the influence of Taylorism. The open office concept was created with the aims of increasing productivity and efficiency levels and consisted of a strict and regimented office layout unlike flexible working spaces. The open office concept is one of the most popular modern office layouts, but does it positively affect workers’ productivity? There are many open plan office pros and cons that should be considered before you adopt or abandon the trend within your workplace. Explored below are some of the main open-plan office layout advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of an Open-Plan Office:
- More Physical Activity: A study of 231 office workers revealed that those who worked in open-plan offices showed higher levels of physical activity (32%) than those who worked in private offices and 20% more than those who worked in their own office cubicles. The reason for this may be that they walk around to try and find places to speak privately or have time to themselves away from their workspace.
- Increased Teamwork: One of the main advantages of an open-plan office is that there is more opportunity for sharing ideas and giving useful opinions and input with colleagues. This increases cooperation, creativity and builds relationships within the workplace as employees are more easily available and more approachable in an open-plan office.
- Less Construction Costs: No room planning is necessary in the open-plan office layout; the room is simply ‘open’ without any rooms or walls segregating the space. Furthermore, there is more room for newly hired employees in this office design, which is definitely another one of the advantages of an open-plan office if you are searching for a commercial property, as it saves money in the long-term.
Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office:
- Bad for your Health: According to a national Danish survey in 2011, there is evidence to the suggestion that open-plan offices have negative effects on individuals’ health. The survey results showed that those who worked in open-offices took 62% more ‘sick days’ than those who worked in office cubicles or cellular offices.
- Bad Feelings about the Open-Plan Office: A survey which polled around 4000 workers, 400 of which already worked in an open. Many individuals didn’t show a positive attitude toward the open-office layout. 31% didn’t express their true thoughts or feelings while on a call in an open office, due to their fear of being judged by colleagues. 13% were considering leaving their job due to the design of the office. Furthermore, 27% would rather give up the office’s coffee machine than work in an open-plan office.
- Reduced Communication: Another one of the disadvantages of an open-plan office concept is that, even though the aim of this type of office is thought to have an increase in communication, there is actually a lack of face-to-face interaction in these types of offices. A study suggested that employees in this open-plan office layout were spending 73% less time in face-to-face interactions and email/messaging habits increased by 67%.
- Hard to Concentrate: Due to the constant distractions in the open-plan office such as: seeing people get up from their desks, hearing blaring music from colleagues’ headphones and listening to people’s conversations – it can be extremely difficult for workers to concentrate on their tasks. This also reflects on their communication – if employees can’t concentrate, they will be less likely to have a conversation with those around them. This means a less collaborative office space.
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- Overcrowding: The open-plan office layout can often be overcrowded due to many people working in one room. This can mean a lack of privacy for some workers who enjoy having their own space, leading to a strain in office relationships.
- Increased Stress: Low-level noise in open-plan offices causes a higher level of stress (more often found in women) and lower levels of motivation and productivity. This is one of the main disadvantages of an open-plan office because if workers are tenser at work, it may affect their overall well-being and attitude towards work.
The list of open-plan office layout advantages and disadvantages seems to have more negative factors than positive ones. The 6 disadvantages of an open-plan office, by far, outweigh the 3 advantages. With the increased stress levels of employees, health consequences and the inability to concentrate being the main culprits of the open-plan office. To conclude this post, the open-plan office is definitely a curse, as its blessings are almost non-existent. If you want to increase productivity in your office – ditch the open-plan office and try some of the other office design trends.
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