Open plan offices, in which employees work in an open office space with connected workstations, are commonly used in many industries. In open plan offices, office furniture is designed and placed to create individualworkstationsseparated by screens or panels. In this article, we look at some of the major benefits and disadvantages of using open plan offices, and how structuring your work spaces in this way can add to business productivity.
1. Communication and Transparency
Open plan offices have been shown to enhance information flow, organisational culture, add to transparency and encourage team spirit. Depending on the type of work being done, managers can build rapport more easily with the team because they can communicate with everyone in one place without having to set up a meeting. For the same reason ad hoc training and workplace development is also much more easily achieved. Hierarchical barriers are eliminated or minimised.
Depending on the type of work, private offices can lead to feelings of staff isolation and lack of transparency. Colleagues have to make an effort to work as a team as there is no automatic accessibility to other employees. Managers may also need to be more proactive in encouraging teamwork as a result.
Open plan offices are far more economical than private offices to set up and maintain. Economies of scale can be achieved with the purchase of a multiple number of office desks,office chairs, storage cabinets, computers, and other office equipment.
For heating, cooling and temperature control, open plan offices are also cheaper to maintain as there is a single space. More employees can fit into the same space, saving the business rental outlays. However, the business may still need to provide private spaces for meetings or work that may be otherwise too noisy to conduct in an open plan office environment.
3. Flexibility for Re-Design
Open plan offices can be easily re-designed and re-arranged and the office furniture moved around without spatial limitations imposed by enclosed private offices. Screens and panels can be set up to create new cubicles if you add new employees. However, there is less choice for individual employees to personalise their office space when compared to a private enclosed office.
4. Privacy and Security
Open plan offices provide less privacy and security when compared with enclosed offices. There is no way to prevent someone walking into your work place and some open plan offices may be set up so that those walking past can see what employees are doing. Depending on the type of work, this can enhance productivity because managers and other team members have an immediate idea of what the employee is working on and communication can be instant.
In other cases, enclosed offices may be more appropriate if the work is individual or confidential in nature. Most private offices will have a lock on the door while open plan offices can’t offer the same degree of security unless lockers or locked cabinets are provided for each employee.
While open plan offices may be associated with higher noise levels, separation panels can reduce the amount of noise that pass between cubicles. While open plan offices by their nature cannot offer the same degree of noise insulation of private offices, with the right design, noise can be minimised and the benefits of easy access and information flow retained.
In summary, the business or department type will weigh heavily on whether an open plan layout or enclosed private offices would suit your organisation. Those in IT and creative industries may feel that open plan offices help facilitate their creativity and teamwork. Those in private service industries, such as accounting and law, will find private offices much more suitable for the individualised and confidential nature of their work.