The Evolution of the Open Office Space


In the last year or so, several articles in the media have challenged the effectiveness of open plan workspaces. An article in Forbes, for example, published on October 3, 2017, asks, “Is the Open-Office Plan Dead?”. A more revealing question might be: Why do businesses insist on using space planning approaches that don’t meet their employees’ needs?

The open plan concept popular more than a decade ago (think early Google, Facebook) has since adapted with smarter, more advanced planning models. Not only has the kind of work we do changed significantly since the peak of the open plan in the early 2000s, so too has our knowledge about how these spaces can promote employee satisfaction, productivity and engagement. These new, cutting-edge design strategies turn the traditional approach to office planning on its head, but there’s a solid rationale for the evolution.

Activity-Based Workplaces (ABW)

This approach focuses on task-oriented solutions that encourage employees to move around the workspace. It empowers people to select the right space for what they’re working on that moment. ABW spaces are usually designed to be an “ecosystem” of spaces, grouped to serve four primary work functions: solo work, collaboration, learning, and socialization/rejuvenation.

These modern work environments often feature centrally-located social hubs, and many are created with an eating component and groups of work stations, including phone booths and team areas nearby. These design spaces encourage employees to be flexible and less “place-dependent.”

Neighborhood-Based Choice Environments (NCE)

These spaces create a home for teams to function out of, while still permitting people to have access to a variety of work settings. Providing a “team base” where workers can connect and feel like they belong is key.

Staying sedentary in one place all day can be mind — and rear! — numbing. In NCE, movement is stimulated within workspaces that are not assigned to any particular individual, but staying in place from day to day is okay, too — IF it suits the individual or group. NCE workspaces foster a sense of community, but also recognize our basic “territorial” instincts. It’s a win-win: it accommodates a variety of individual preferences, while addressing the business’ needs.

Maker Environments, Mobile Occupants (MEMO)

Companies that are seeking to create unique spaces that promote creativity, speed, and innovation are implementing the MEMO approach. In a nutshell, it’s the “garage-ification” of space for programmers, creative types, or co-workers, showing up in industries where rapid development is of paramount importance. Originating in Asia, this design plan is often called “agile program space.”

Immersive Environments

Immersive Environments incorporate all the best features of open plan, ABW, NCE, and MEMO, customizing them to meet the specific needs of a company. These tailored spaces are less about following trends, and more about evaluating functions and creating stimulating places.

Emagispace® is keeping pace with the changing nature of office space, offering flexible solutions like privacy pods and a patented, interlocking building system that is adaptable to your needs. Contact us today and let us help you bring your workplace vision to life.

Additional “Open Office Floor Plan Design” Resources:

  1. Gallup News, “How to Make an Open Office Floor Plan Work,”
  2. Gallup News, “State of the American Workplace Report,