Best Practices for Designing Your Open Office Floor Plan

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Depending on whom you talk to, open office floor plans are either the bee’s knees or your worst nightmare. So what’s with the polarizing reputation? Open office concepts can foster a community setting, encouraging collaboration and teamwork to occur organically. On the other hand, a poorly planned open office floor plan can be detrimental to the productivity and sanity of your team. The benefits, while impressive, can only be achieved if the open office floor successfully incorporates these crucial elements:

The psychology of color

Color has a powerful impact on human emotion—influencing our mood, thoughts, and even appetite. Case in point, take a look at the logos of fast food or quick service restaurants. Notice that most use a combination of red and yellow. This is because those colors trigger your appetite. Purposeful color choices can lead to favorable behaviors in the workplace. Conversely, choosing a bland color may lead to negative reactions in the workplace.

According to an article in Entrepreneur, a recent study found that bland gray, beige, and white offices induced feelings of sadness and depression, especially in women. Men, on the other hand, experienced similarly gloomy feelings in purple and orange workspaces. Taking that principle and applying it to your open office floor plan color scheme, organizations have to select colors that induce positive work behaviors. The same article suggests that green is great for those who spend long hours in the office and that blue has calming properties.

Lighting and room temperature

Lighting and temperature are also important in the success of an open office floor plan. A well-lit open office floor plan is important to prevent falls and other preventable accidents, but it’s more than that. According to, lighting can hugely influence personal well-being, and health, motivation and performance. When considering lighting options for your office, be sure to follow OSHA standards on office space lighting.

In addition to lighting, room temperature is also a factor in open office productivity. Have you ever noticed that your office might be slightly chilly? A recent article in Forbes found that sub-tropic temps improve productivity in the office. Don’t set the temp too low, however, as the same article found that typing errors dropped by 44 percent between 68-77 degrees.

Purposeful design

Open office floor plans often fail because the design lacks purpose. Many assume that open floor plans mean dozens of big tables thrown together, with colleagues on top of one another, trying to make the best out of a trying situation. FastCompany senior editor Anjali Mullany explains that open office floor plans can work if executed properly. In her article, Mullany says that the floor plan has to incorporate functional spaces to help accommodate workflow.

In your open office floor plan, provide a diversity of spaces for different types of tasks and work styles. For example, acoustics can be a huge distraction and productivity hindrance in an open office, so provide designated collaborating sections as well as a quieter space for those who need it. When the layout works, so does the team.

The ultimate workspace

Open office floor plans can be great workspaces—when done well. They allow leaders and their people to work amongst one another, breaking down barriers in communication and workflow. Color, temperature, lighting, and floor plan design are key to the success of your open office floor plan.  

What details work best for your employees? Instead of relying on assumptions, ask employees about all of the elements above. It’s impossible to create a single space that is perfect for everyone, but you can create a space that provides the diversity of settings to meet a diversity of needs.

If you liked this article, check out What Kind of Culture Is Your Workplace Promoting?

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