The pros and cons of open plan office design

The pros and cons of open plan office design


Jun 30, 2016

Are you thinking of taking office space in the City, refurbishing your existing commercial premises in Clerkenwell or moving to new offices on London’s Eastern Fringe? Whatever you choose, it’s a golden opportunity to give a fresh impetus to the way you conduct business.

But before you start deciding on colour schemes and desk configurations, one major question needs addressing first: Will you go open plan?

An open plan office design consists of workstations grouped together in one unified physical space. There may be short screens or panels to provide some degree of partitioning, but no walls or doors to separate the premises into separate rooms or enclosed spaces.

If you put the idea out for staff consultation, be prepared for strong views for and against an open plan design. Some people will be hugely in favour of an open plan environment that can facilitate team working, while others will find the direct proximity of their co-workers distracting. It all depends on your business ethos, the number of staff involved and the way you’d like to do business.

To help you make the right decision for your business, here’s a summary of the pros and cons for open plan offices.

PRO:      Effective Communication

An open plan office promotes the creative flow of ideas and sharing of opinions.

Without any physical barriers in the way, a cooperative environment is created where staff interact, collaborate and feel involved. Effective communication leads to better business outcomes.

PRO:      Better Teamwork

Sales offices in particular thrive on communication, a shared sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

An open plan office design can help team members to share and learn from each other’s experiences and focus the entire team towards achieving common goals.

PRO:      More Flexibility

The lack of physical constraints means that the office layout can be reconfigured easily to accommodate extra desks or members of staff, or to create meeting spaces or breakout areas as required.

Renting open plan office space is a budget conscious solution for London businesses, while sharing utilities and IT equipment in one room can compound the savings.

PRO:      Easier Supervision

There’s nowhere to hide in an open plan office. Your management will know in an instant who is messaging from their smartphone or checking their Facebook account, meaning timewasting can be nipped in the bud and office productivity can be increased.

CON:     Noisy Office

The absence of rooms means everyone is sharing the same office space, which can be noisy. Telephone conversations, office chatter, keyboard clatter – it can all be very distracting and annoying. Unless everyone adapts to the new environment, productivity may suffer.

CON:     No Privacy

Where do you have a confidential meeting or make a sensitive phone call in an open plan office? Whether you are dealing with classified business information, personal staff details or any other confidential data on your computer, an open plan office is not ideal.

CON:     Adverse Communication

Some personalities are bigger than others and, given the opportunity, their behaviour can be domineering. Whether quieter office workers are simply overpowered by their more extrovert colleagues or unhealthy cliques or bullying behaviour start to occur, negative communication patterns will undermine the office spirit.

CON:     Health & Hygiene

With all staff members working in close physical proximity, germs are bound to spread more easily through the office. Unless scrupulous hygiene procedures are in place, staff sickness levels may rise. Worst case scenario: the whole office is sharing the same bug!

 

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