Remember when working meant sitting in cubicles all day and having that corner office was a sign of status? For some of us, it might still mean that. But since open floor plans were introduced in the 60’s, 70% of U.S offices have shifted to having open workspaces, according to a 2010 International Facilities Management Association survey. They’re usually trendy and creatively decorated — and have no walls. But are they really better than the good ol’ cubicle?
It Saves Money and Space
This is the most commonly lauded benefit for open floor spaces — it’s economical. Having open workspaces lets your company be flexible while it grows and accommodate more employees without having to expand to multiple floors too soon. Having one large space is more efficient than trying to fit a bunch of individual stations in the same space.
It Promotes Collaboration
Without walls between each desk, open floor plans foster way more collaboration and interaction among employees. You can talk to the person next to you without having to roll your chair into their cubicle — easier communication means better collaboration and a more creative environment.
It’s Easy to Monitor
Large open spaces are easier for managers to supervise than offices or cubicles. It’s probably not a good idea to go overboard with the supervision, but it’ll be easy to see if your employees are fooling around too much.
It Creates a Better Work Environment
Having more space allows for more natural lighting to come in, especially since there are less barriers (annoying cubicle walls) to block the windows. Natural lighting is easier on the eyes (and also helps you go green!), and it creates a softer, more relaxed atmosphere.
It’s Hard to Block Noise
Although more communication and interaction may be good for brainstorming and teamwork, it’s also distracting for others. No walls makes it so sound travels easily throughout an open space. Loud noises and conversation can actually take away from productivity levels, especially when phones are ringing and your co-workers are humming along to their music.
It’s Hard to Find Privacy
Since everyone can see what everyone else is doing, some people might get stressed out because there’s little privacy. Everything is public and while that might be conducive for collaboration, we all need to be alone sometimes. Plus, if you’re in a role that handles sensitive information, you might need a little more privacy than others.
It’s Easier to Get Sick
This study found that offices with open setups reported 62% more sick days on average than individual layouts. It’s not surprising, since everything is shared in an open office, whether it’s a pen or sneezes. Large open spaces are the perfect breeding ground for germs and bacteria, so watch out for germy places like the fridge or the copy machine.
There’s pros and cons to any office set-up, but the important thing to keep in mind is what your employees and company culture want. If you have a lot of millennials that like free-flowing environments, maybe open office layouts are the right choice! On the other hand, if many of your employees are older, they might prefer the privacy and quiet of cubicles. What set-up does your office have? Let us know in the comments!