As Industrial Revolution 4.0 approaches, many businesses are also looking to revolutionize not only their employees and strategies but also their business space. One of the concepts that are gaining ground is open space offices. The principle behind this design is that it can help productivity because it improves communication, promotes collaborative effort, and decreases the use of email or text messages.
However, a study done by Harvard researchers Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, contradicted this assumption. Based on the results published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, open space offices have actually done the opposite of what its proponents believed it would. The results showed drastically decreased social interactions leading to less collaborative effort and productivity.
Despite this, there are still strong advocates for this kind of office design. Many of these supporters belong to the younger generation who claim that it helps their brainstorming and multitasking abilities. Though it may be true to this younger segment, it may not be necessarily effective for all workers.
Advantages of an Open Office
An open office can decrease the operational costs of a business. With the flexible layout of the offices there is no need for more construction and downtime or permits. Companies can add more employees and desk spaces to grow quickly when needed. Grouping teams together in the open office can foster more collaboration and resulting productivity.
Disadvantages of an Open Office
The drawbacks of this floor plan include excessive noise, lack of privacy, less security, increased stress and even susceptibility to illness for employees. The collective effect of all of these things can lead to a decrease of productivity and adversly affect the well being of a company.
Is It For Your Business? Factors To Consider
If you ask the 13 members from the Forbes Coaches Council there are some important factors to help you determine if an open floor plan is a good fit for your office.
Number of Personnel
If you have a large number of workers then consider the increase in the amount of noise and distractions. However, if your company is in a growth stage or has a flexible number of workers in the office, then it may be better to go with an open concept.
Employees’ Work Needs
There are some types of activities that need more concentration such as creative work, sales conversations and accounting. Finding a setup that does not distract your employees is at the core of this decision. If the type of work done is in need of continuous collaboration, an open space may be more helpful.
Younger workers are typically more appreciative of an open space office. Their generations have grown up with smartphones and they are used to multitasking with distractions around which is why they often prefer such kind of work space.
However, the older employees might find it hard to adjust to this environment. They are used to their privacy and can be easily distracted. Generally, the older a person is, the less amount of sensory stimulus they can tolerate.
Just about every team is comprised of introverts and extroverts. Different personality types can be negatively affected by their office environment so take this into consideration.
Humans may be social creatures but we also need personal time. There should still be areas for them to enjoy a quiet time and for private conversations like work reviews and disciplinary actions.
Importance of phone conversations
Some industries need the connectivity provided by phones. Outsourcing work also comes with the need to conduct conversations with clients, which means that your employees need a work place where noise levels are manageable.
The kind of leadership will dictate what type of space is suitable. If a leader prefers to work from a separate office and meet with staff individually, a traditional office layout might be best. If a leader looks for more collaboration from their team, then an open space might work better.
Blending the Old and the New: Hybrid Office Plans
There is always a middle ground for just about every dilemma. If a change in the office area plan has the potential to bring improved performance, then alternatives should definitely be considered.
A mixture of open and “closed door” offices can be an upgrade for both camps. You can have big open spaces for those that need to be highly collaborative, and small closed spaces for those in need of concentration and quiet workplace.
A multi-zone designed open space can also work out by providing individual zones for each different type of work. One area is dedicated to quiet work, another to low volume conversations and a third space for loud meetings. Different strategies for Activity-Based Seating are outlined further in this article.
Another concept is more of a modular solution. Here you add tall movable dividers to give each group privacy and time to do their group work. Then when it is time for collaboration, the dividers can be removed. Really, the right solution depends on your organization and team.
Do an anonymous poll
Taking a quick poll will allow your workers a voice in the change of their environment. By keeping it anonymous you also give your employees the opportunity to be completely honest. The feedback you receive will provide helpful insights that can guide your office choice or renovation.
In 2020, many companies are making innovations in their space, and if you’re looking to implement a change in your business, do your research and keep employee happiness and productivity as top priorities.