Open Plan vs Closed Office ? What do you need to consider?
When a business takes on a new office space, there are a number of important factors to take into consideration; one critical factor is office layout. How your office space is laid out holds a number of vital implications for your business these include cost, communication, the working environment and employee privacy.
There is no doubt that an open plan office space is not only more cost effective in terms of initial set up, but also for heating, cooling and cleaning. The very nature of an open plan office means that desks can easily be reconfigured if necessary, without the restrictions of permanent walls and doors. Room temperature can be easily regulated, and cleaning becomes more efficient, without the interruption of unlocking doors to individual offices. It is also possible to fit in more employees into an open plan office space layout, this gives companies better value for money on their office rental, as well as allowing the business to expand and contact with market needs, this future proofs the space hired should the company grow.
Open plan office space encourages better communication and team spirit. Without closed doors and individuals working in their own private space, employees are more easily able to bounce ideas off one another, ask for assistance, or generally forge stronger friendships with their colleagues. Communication is more likely to flow through the room, whether intentional or not, allowing employees to be better informed as to company information. Of course, this can have its drawbacks too, particularly when sensitive information is being discussed, but management will need to make sure that, when necessary, confidential discussions are kept out of the main office, and held in private meeting rooms or off site entirely.
The Working Environment
Whilst both cost and communication generally favour the open plan style of office space, the working environment is less cut and dry. By having a number of people in the same room with no separating walls allows noise to build up from multiple telephones ringing, conversations between groups of people, conference calls and ad hoc meetings. This can cause huge disturbance to fellow workers and lapses in concentration. In addition to this, whilst noise travels across the room, so can colds and other illnesses which can cause higher number of sick days taken by the work force at a large cost to the company.
However, an individual office structure can promote a far more hierarchical feel to a company, which may or may not be desirable. It can also prevent spontaneous conversations and catch ups which can be so beneficial to a business.
Individual offices can also lead to darker internal rooms and corridors with the offices often clustered around the external walls, and therefore windows, of the building.
Finally privacy plays an important part in the decision of whether to go for an open plan or individual office layout. Whilst various departments can be grouped together into pods in an open plan office space, monitors are still clearly viewed over employees’ shoulders and telephone calls and conversations between colleagues are easily overheard. This problem is completely eliminated when using an individual office style layout and could well be the best option for when sensitive information is often being discussed.
For many businesses, there is no decision to be made, particularly for smaller companies where it makes no sense to give each employee their own office. However, for larger companies and departments, the advantages and disadvantages of both options need to be weighed up before a decision can be made as to which would work best for the company.
Anna Norman-Butler, Marketing Manager, Avanta Serviced Offices and writer on office space tips and tools. Avanta Managed Offices provide professional office space and meeting rooms for large corporations and small and medium sized companies. Anna also writes for Avanta Exchange, an online business community connecting office based business professionals from across the globe, providing news, info