Open Offices: Distracting or Liberating? Part One

premiseIn office-based work, open office layouts have both staunch defenders and critics. Some hail office spaces based around open spaces and free from stuffy cubicles as a fresh new take on office design. Others, however, protest that open offices lead to frequent distractions, diminished privacy on the job, and decreased focus.

This blog will look at both sides of the dilemma in successive posts. First, let’s have a look at the pro-open-office case:

-Cubicles and small offices can decrease worker satisfaction and comfort. Cubicle office spaces, the chief alternative to open office spaces, have acquired a bad reputation in recent years. Maybe it is just fashion, but many workers have complained of the confined and monochromatic nature of cubicle offices. An open office space represents a fundamental shift from the idea of confining each worker to a small space by seeking to keep channels of communication open and avoid a claustrophobic office layout.

-When well-implemented, open offices have the capacity to improve work flow and communication. Walls are seen by some industry insiders as barriers to employee communication, and the modern trend is thus to tear them down. Extroverted employees in particular tend to benefit from the increased likelihood of personal interaction that comes with open office spaces.

-Startup companies in particular have long been loyal to the open office layout. To many, the concept of the open office encapsulates the spirit of free-thinking and innovation. Smaller companies in particular often have little need to physically separate employees’ work spaces—after all, small groups of employees are less likely to distract one another than larger ones when sharing space.

Even some notable former startups that have made it all the way to the Fortune 500 have stayed loyal to the open office layout—Google and Facebook come to mind!

-The modern trend toward open office spaces continues, and shows no signs of abetting. A report by architecture firm Gensler on design trends for 2014 noted, “Organizations will get serious about the problems of mobility and collaboration. As they recognize the benefits of face-to-face interaction, ‘getting everyone under one roof’ will grow.” The report acknowledges that open offices are not a cure-all for worker interaction issues, adding, “Mitigating conflicts between interactive and focused work will be a top priority, given the negative impact of distraction on people’s effectiveness.”

Wherever you stand on the open office space debate, Office Space Planners is ready to help out with your office design projects and ambitions! Come get a quote online today.

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