Is an Open Floor Plan the Right Solution for Your Workplace?

It seems like offices everywhere are transforming overnight, as employers are opting to replace offices and cubicles with an open floor plan. Central to the change is the introduction of the acoustic office pod, a modular furniture solution that is essentially “a room within a room.”

Accommodating one to two people, office pods eliminate the need for wall fixings, as they are demountable and easily relocatable. As with any new trend, it has both benefits and drawbacks. Here is a quick rundown of a few of the biggest pros and cons to incorporating pods into open work spaces and ideas on how to ease the transition in your workplace.

Benefits of Open Floor Plans

Less expensive: One major benefit of open plan workspaces to employers is that they can effectively reduce costs. More people can work in less space, meaning companies don’t need to lease as much square footage, offering significant savings on real estate. In addition, compared with traditional high-walled cubicles, workstation solutions like pods cost less and can easily be moved.

More communication: One of the primary reasons businesses say they have opted for open floor plans is to increase communication and collaboration among employees. Organizations can facilitate quick, frequent exchanges of information and ideas by lowering the walls, which in turn can lead to increased productivity and creativity. An added benefit is that many employees appreciate the greater sense of community and inclusiveness that results when they are “in the know” while on the job. Privacy pods help balance the collaborative work environment by providing a private space to conduct calls or a quiet place to focus.

More Vitamin D: Bringing down walls allows everyone in the office environment a chance to enjoy that great natural resource: the sun. Giving your entire office access to natural light (instead of just a fortunate few) will save money on energy bills by not having to rely as much on electricity, reduce your carbon footprint, and cut down eye strain among workers. Studies have also found that natural light helps improve employees’ overall attitudes, which means increased productivity and camaraderie.

Factors to Consider When Designing an Open Floor Plan

Noise: One of the biggest complaints about open offices? The noise level, especially from talking. Valtteri Hongisto, an acoustician at Finland’s Institution of Occupational Health, told the New York Timesin 2012, “Noise is the most serious problem in the open-plan office, and speech is the most disturbing type of sound because it is directly understood in the brain’s working memory.”  His institute found a decline of 5 to 10 percent in cognitive tasks like reading and writing (which require short-term memory) when the person is subjected to others’ conversations.

Privacy: Nine out of 10 respondents to Knoll’s survey said privacy was the number one advantage of the closed space work environment. Walls help employees feel more secure and safe from eyes and ears. Those employees who need to complete more focused work, or those who need to conduct sensitive conversations (disciplinary meetings with HR or private meetings with clients, etc.) long for walls. When they come down, privacy goes away, which could make employees feel uncomfortable.

Easing the Transition to Open Work Space

Change doesn’t have to be hard. To help ensure buy-in with your new office layout, begin by looking for ways to provide a soundproof space so that employees have a quiet place to focus or conduct calls without disrupting others. Privacy pods are an ideal solution and are easily installed and moved as space needs change.

It is important to think the design through. Some organizations have found it helpful to include privacy pods, phone-booth-like areas where employees can go to have a discreet conversation. Engage the different departments within your company to learn more about how your employees work and plan to seat them according to how much “heads-down” time they require– like computer programmers – as compared to those who perform more teamwork-oriented tasks.

Emagispace, specializing in open office space solutions, is ready to help you embrace this innovative design trend. Contact us today about our products and services, and let us assist you in bringing your vision to life.

Additional Resources:

  1. magazine, “Is the Open-Plan Office Really Right for You?

Fortune magazine, “What are the pros and cons of an open-office floorplan?”