When An Open Office Plan is Right For You
Arguably, no other workplace topic is as hotly debated as open office floor plans: one camp believes it promotes interoffice communication and collaboration while the opposing camp believes it stifles creativity and focus. The truth, however, may lie somewhere in the middle.
As this Washington Post article points out, sometimes the open office plan can be centered around the manager’s perspective and not the employees, says Ethan Bernstein, Harvard Business School professor and co-author of a study that researched the challenges of open offices.
However, the case for (or against) open offices isn’t black-and-white. We’ve compiled some notable benefits and challenges unique to open offices for you to consider.
Of course, with lack of walls and barriers to sequester staff, employees are apt to communicate more. Open offices can force the most introverted workers to interact with others. Communication spurs collaboration, and open offices can lead to increased collaboration.
Open floor plans remove individual offices, and thus, remove the hierarchy associated with private offices. Employees and staff are on an equal playing field, which lends itself to a stronger, more egalitarian work environment.
Open offices are ideal for flexibility, oftentimes promoting and even requiring employees to maximize use of breakout spaces, and modular, multi-use furniture. As a workforce grows or changes, an open office plan provides the necessary accommodation while keeping costs low.
As Bernstein points out, humans instinctively require privacy, and open office plans can push employees to seek out dedicated spaces where they can plug in and work with no distraction. In order to not disturb others, employees are also opting to use online spaces to communicate, with studies showing that instant messenger (IM) and email use grows significantly after employees enter an open office plan.
Without barriers or walls, employees must appear to be busy at all times in open offices, which can push them to multitask, causing frustration and ineffectiveness. Research has also concluded that open offices tend to discriminate against older workers, who are likely to suffer anxiety and other health problems from the stress.
Finding Common Ground
Open offices, with their benefits and challenges, are quickly becoming the norm for modern-day workspaces. However, as time passes, more research is showing that for workers to thrive, accommodations for privacy and flexible, dedicated spaces for breakout collaboration are crucial.
Opting to use modular, tech-friendly furniture that can be shifted around for privacy will provide employees a dedicated space for undistracted work.
By addressing the potential downfalls of open offices, you can ensure you’re maximizing the benefits of collaboration and interoffice communication while minimizing the lack of focus and creativity. If you’re considering an open office floor plan, take time to fully assess if you have the necessary resources to make it work for you and your team.
So, is an open office right for you?