In recent years, we have seen an increase in businesses using the open office concept.  If it worked for successful companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo, then it must be good for us, right?

Not necessarily!  Before following in their footsteps, you should consider if this is an office design concept that is right for your company, its culture, and work environment needs.

What does an open office concept mean?

The concept has evolved over the years.  Several years ago, when someone referred to open office design, they meant that the hard walls were coming down and panels or cubicles would be used to designate individual workspaces.  Now office spaces are built this way, with very few closed-door offices, even for management.  The idea of “open” has continued to evolve to a whole new level.  Currently, an open office design leverages “benching systems” or using large tables with a short panel or screen separating one seat from the next or possibly none at all.

If you are thinking you might want to use an open office design for your new office space, there are several points to consider.

What are the job functions of the employees that will be using the space?

Do they need to collaborate with each other regularly, or does their work require intense individual concentration?

If your company thrives on brainstorming and idea sharing, then an open office layout will encourage and simplify that collaboration. It’s easier to look across the room and blurt out a new idea than get up and walk over to an office door, knock, wait to be invited in and begin a conversation.  On the flip side, if your employees are more focused on their individual tasks and vulnerable to interruption affecting their work or productivity, then an open office concept might not be right for them.  Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, observed that when the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off!  With numerous interruptions, a day, that could be a significant about of time lost.

What is your company culture?

Who are your employees?  What are their ages or backgrounds?  Millennials tend to enjoy and be more productive in an open office environment where the older employees find it difficult to adjust from the closed in workspace they have experienced for years.

Do your employees need a permanent workspace?  With studies finding increased productivity when working from home, many companies find the need for a permanent seat in the office less necessary and choose the flexibility of tables and shared workstations to be more efficient.

Does privacy matter?

Do your employees discuss confidential matters with co-workers or clients?  If so, an open space where everyone can hear everything is probably not a good idea. Carelessly sharing confidential or private information belonging to clients can create legal and ethical problems.

Your employees need their privacy too.  Some people don’t like to know that there could be eyes on them all day and feel uncomfortable which distracts them from the tasks at hand.  This is especially true if supervisors are needlessly looking over their shoulders scrutinizing their work.

There are pros and cons to adopting an open office workspace design.  A company should carefully weigh how the design will affect creativity, productivity, and privacy.  The best way to create a design that is right for your company is to discuss it with an experienced office space designer that can advise on the best type of office furniture and layout for your business. At OFW, we have an in-house design team ready to help your business, so contact us today!