Posted on 11 Aug 2014 in: Useful Tips & Guides
The big decision - Open or Closed Offices?
Are you looking to re-locate your business or starting up a new business and aren’t sure whether to commit to an open plan office environment or not? The idea of lots of people within one room is appealing from a communications and cost saving point of view but what about privacy and sufficient work space? We’re taking a closer look at the pros and cons of open plan offices to see what advantages they hold, if any, over the more traditional individual office approach
The pros and cons of the open plan set up
Six advantages to open working
Accommodate more staff
In an open plan office it is usually easier to accommodate more desks and staff than it is possible in closed offices. If you’re looking to expand, this may be a more cost effective way of being able to provide suitable desking and workspace for your growing number of employees
Cubicle style working is conducive to productive working
Studies have shown that people are no less productive working in a cubicle type space than a closed office. With screens to separate desks, a level of privacy and ‘own space’ is achievable
Communication is easier between employees and departments
Messages, conversations, referrals, paperwork or files can all be passed around much easier in an open environment. Personnel can request help and advice from each other easily. Open communication often leads to a more effective and productive company and team spirit is easier to achieve when people work in close proximity
Supervision is easier in call centre type scenarios
With everyone in one area, managers or supervisors have the ability to be much more visible to the staff and in contact with them. Problems can be solved much quicker and help offered ‘on the spot’ when required
Operating costs are reduced
The cost of air conditioning, lighting and heating an open space is typically cheaper than individually controlled rooms/offices because of improved light and air flow. Resources can also be shared such as printers and stationery
Layouts can easily be changed
If you need to expand or change the layout it just involves furniture moving, not the expense of moving the walls!
What are the disadvantages of an open plan office?
Working too closely to your colleagues can lead to poor concentration for those who are easily distracted by noise and other people’s conversations
Other people moving around, answering telephone calls, chatting at the coffee machine, meetings beginning and ending… With a hundred and one disturbances going on around them, staff may become distracted and unfocussed on their tasks even if unintentionally. This can be a contributing factor in job dissatisfaction which is not good for your staff in itself but can make them less productive for your business as well
Reduced security and lack of privacy
Computer screens are more visible to more people in open plan offices, just as telephone conversations can be over heard. Discretion is not easy in an open environment and can potentially make confidential client meetings more difficult if privacy is not possible. Staff may not also appreciate the lack of privacy in terms of personal conversations or the lack of security for locking personal items away. Staff who are not happy with their work environment tend to be less productive on the whole
Sickness and infection can spread more easily
Expect more absenteeism in an open plan environment as germs and disease can spread much more easily
Employees of long standing or senior rank may feel they are entitled to their own office
If certain members of staff have their own offices based on seniority or length of service, other staff may feel jealous leading to an inharmonious work place. Also, have you space to give everyone their own office as they are promoted or reach a certain number of years’ service to the company?
Finding a temperature and the right lighting which suits everyone can be difficult
There’s always one who is still cold in 25 degree sunshine and another who sweats even if room temperature dips below 18 degrees. Finding a temperature to suit all is much easier when staff can regulate their own room temperatures in individual closed offices
Research shows that a major contributing factor to job dissatisfaction is lack of personal space at work. Open plan offices aren’t in a position to give private space typically so this needs to be factored in to your decision to avoid unhappy personnel
There is research to support all the pros and the cons of open plan office working. Ultimately the decision to go for open or closed offices will be yours depending on your staff and situation.
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