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  • Writer's pictureMason Inc.

The Open Office - Friend or Foe?


“Open offices were supposed to usher in a new era of collaborative working. Instead, they’ve eroded any semblance of office privacy, forcing office-dwellers to listen to every word of their co-workers’ calls and conversations.” 4

Management types love to extol the benefits of the open office. “What you don’t hear so much in the breathless descriptions of 21st century workspaces: the grumbling from employees who can’t focus on their jobs because of all the distractions. Or the stories of workers who retreat to home offices to escape all the creativity and fun—so they can get some work done.” 3

“Theoretically, an open-plan office is a great format for a changeable work environment, a place where employees have a say over how they work and a place that can adapt to their needs and to the needs of the business. …But the biggest reason that 70 percent of all workplaces use open-plan offices isn’t so they can create a flexible, creative work environment that responds to employee needs. It’s because they are the cheapest way to squeeze more employees into a smaller amount of square footage.… Studies have shown that an open office damages productivity, attention spans, creative thinking, and satisfaction.” 2

“Is your open office floorplan killing your employees? A recent article in The New Yorker took a hard-hitting look at the open office trend to take stock if the concept was a good or bad idea. …

The findings, culled from various research studies, don’t look great for the open office as a paragon of productivity.” 1

The Open Office Doesn’t Have to be a foe

The quotes above are from recent journal articles about open-office plans. They don’t make them sound that great do they? But the results from an open office rely on the design of the space.

A professional commercial interior designer can help you accomplish these objectives for an open office plan that works:

  • Set up open stations for team collaboration, and quiet spaces where individuals can focus and work by themselves.

  • Provide space and furnishings that are flexible, modular and reconfigurable. They have to change with your company and employees.

  • Have small enclosed workspaces, private nooks, communal tables and informal coffee-shop-like areas.

  • Get input from employees on how they work and how they want to work. Put that into your plan rather than forcing a top-down approach.

  • Include lots of artwork and plants to create pleasant emotions.

  • Give employees choices on accessories, lighting, ergonomic products and seating so can feel some ownership of their small space.

Also, telecommuting can be a great addition. A flexible work schedule is good for a team’s productivity as well as their families. It reduces stress and aids in employee retention.

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