Open Offices: Benefits & Downsides
It seems that everyone is shifting from cubicle-heavy spaces to open-office floor plans. Open offices fit in line with an image of a “trendy” office space, categorized by optimal lighting, branded decorations, and collaborative, invigorated employees. However, open offices simply aren’t for everyone. If you’re thinking about making this shift in your workplace, first consider the pros and cons of an open-office floor plan.
Benefits of an Open-Office Floor Plan
Open offices create an atmosphere of great collaboration between all levels of employees. No longer are upper-level individuals and bosses cordoned away in their grand and intimidating office. Everyone is on even ground, which breaks down the boundaries for creative and productive exchange. Additional benefits of this layout include:
- The wall-less setup makes open offices more cost effective and flexible
- The layout promotes “culture collisions,” which are chance encounters amongst employees
- “Crumple zones” allow for scalability and more feasible employee expansion
- Open spaces increase natural lighting
When Open Offices Fall Short
For some types of workers, one-third to nearly half of the global population, open-office layouts can create feelings of anxiety. Introverts, as noted by Susan Cain in “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” don’t flourish as easily in an open floor plan. Constant interaction and a free flow of communication can be stifling to their creativity, so they often prefer an isolated workspace. Other problems with an open-office floor plans include:
- They can be stress-inducing and even promote age discrimination, as noted by Fortune
- The open layout lacks privacy
- The noise levels can be prohibitive for individuals trying to concentrate on work
More specifically, according to HBR in a study conducted via Steelcase and Ipsos in 2014, employees in open-office spaces missed an average of 86 minutes of productive time due to noise distractions, such as ringing cell phones, loud printers, or a coworker’s voice. Furthermore, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, office workers in open space floor plans report a loss of three to five hours per day of productive working time due to various interruptions.