Over the past few decades, office designers have been doing away with cubicles and private rooms in favour of open-plan office environments.
An open-plan office has the potential to improve communication, create a sense of community and provide flexible workspaces. However, it lacks the privacy, personal space and peace and quiet of a closed office layout. So what’s the best choice for your business?
The advantages of open-plan offices
Many organisations opt for an open-plan office because the free flow of air and light in the space reduces heating, cooling and lighting costs. Choosing an open-plan layout also reduces construction costs and office equipment investment, since communal spaces promote shared use of resources.
Choosing an open-plan layout can also reduce rental costs, as an office with this layout can house more employees than one with many dividing walls, cubicles and private rooms.
Better communication and collaboration
For some organisations, removing the physical walls between upper-level individuals and other employees can generate a sense of camaraderie and improve communication. Breaking down these walls can also increase creative exchange and promote collaboration – which can lead to business advancement.
Thanks to technological innovation, many businesses have found that they can forgo desks in favour of mixed-use spaces – which allow employees to move their work around the office. This facilitates collaboration, accommodates the different working styles of different individuals and promotes a sense of independence among staff members.
Room for expansion
An open-plan office facilitates expansion by providing more of a “crumple zone” than traditional layouts – where space is limited due to walls and private rooms. If your employee base is growing rapidly, you will need to either choose an open-plan layout, or incur the costs of expanding your floor space.
The possibility of reconfiguration
Unlike closed offices, an open-plan office provides the possibility of reconfiguration without construction. Not only can furniture be easily repositioned in an open-plan layout, but the space can also be adapted over time to accommodate the changing needs of a business without heavy construction.
More natural light
An open-plan layout increases the flow of natural lighting, which reduces the need for artificial lighting and eliminates dead spaces and dark corners. Research shows that workers in offices with windows and natural light are healthier, sleep better and are more productive and more creative.
Where open-plan offices fall short
Noise and distractions
Unfortunately, while an open-plan layout has the potential to improve communication and collaboration between employees, it can also lead to constant noise. In a communal space, a perpetual buzz can be extremely irritating and distracting for employees, promoting idle chat and time-wasting.
A lack of privacy and personal space
Another potential problem with an open-plan office space is that the lack of privacy can lead to legal or ethical issues as a result of compromised confidentiality. A lack of privacy and personal space can also increase stress levels among employees, as many people find a constant state of surveillance anxiety-provoking.
The advantages of a closed office layout
Closed offices enable employees to tailor their work environments to meet their personal needs. They’re also free to sit in complete silence, play the radio, adjust air conditioning, close curtains or open a window – without having to consider the needs and preferences of their co-workers.
Privacy and confidentiality
While the nature of an open-plan office compromises confidentiality, a closed office provides plenty of space for private meetings and confidential phone calls. The layout of a closed office also allows for a sense of security, as it eliminates the feeling of constant surveillance that often arises in an open-plan office.
The pitfalls of a closed office
Space is at a premium in the modern office, so you may find that it is not economical for your business to have a closed office. Closed offices are also more expensive to construct, often equal increased equipment investment, and require more artificial cooling, heating and lighting than an open-plan office, where air and light flow more freely.
Lack of flexibility
The presence of permanent walls makes reconfiguration of a closed office space impossible without construction work. This means that you’ll need to do a complete overhaul of your office in order to alter the layout and adapt the space to your business’s requirements. This measure is not only costly, it’s also highly disruptive.
At K-Mark, we don’t design offices, but we do specialise in managing office facilities for medium to large companies. We also manufacture an extensive range of high-quality, ergonomic office chairs. Contact us for more information or to discuss your needs.