If you're designing a new office, one of the first questions you'll likely ask yourself is whether to use a closed or open office plan. This debate has increased over the last few years and it appears there is no "one-size-fits-all solution". What has come to the fore is a requirement to understand the needs and functions of employees in order to design a workplace that will enhance employees' wellbeing and productivity at work.
This is one of the biggest benefits of an open office space - the absence of walls encourages employees to interact regularly in an informal setting, increases collaboration, establish relationships with colleagues and can also lead to more innovative ideas for your business.
Open office plans provide employees with a greater sense of being part of a larger community, which has been shown to improve staff morale and productivity. Open offices tend to break down leadership hierarchies and invigorate a collaborative culture in the office.
An open office floor plan is significantly more cost-effective regarding initial set-up, but also in terms of heating, cooling and cleaning. Further, more employees can be accommodated in less space which gives the company better value for their money.
Open offices can get quite noisy which can obviously impede concentration and increase stress levels if you have a lot of work to get done. Open offices also provide more opportunities to get distracted by what others around you are doing or talking about.
Computer screens are easily visible and phone conversations overheard in open plan offices.
Offices can become noisy and make it more difficult to concentrate and may require acoustic solutions, such as multiple small meeting rooms where people can retreat to when they have to take a call or have a conference with others.
Closed offices are king when it comes to privacy - employees can enjoy complete privacy to take phone calls and conduct meetings without worry of being disturbed or overheard. Having your own space can also provide a sense of security as you no longer have to be concerned with people looking over your shoulder at your work.
Closed office plans facilitate concentration by removing distractions, having fewer interruptions and reducing the surrounding noise. Having a closed office space also reduces noise for others if you have to take a call or have a meeting, whereas in open offices everyone can hear you.
Closed offices often offer a larger work area for individual employees, which is crucial for productivity. Employees each get a space that is their own without fear of being crowded in by their neighbours.
Significantly more space is required for each employee to have their own closed space, which will impact the company's spend, particularly in larger cities where real estate prices are higher. The cost of building fit-out also increases with extra walls, air conditioning and extra lighting required.
It is more difficult to supervise each employee in private offices, however this is often a positive point allowing for greater responsibility, trust in employees and independence.
Closed offices do not encourage the same types of informal communication that open offices do, such as impromptu brainstorms, comfortable group conversations and unexpected run-in.
Employees can easily feel isolated and sense they are not part of company discussions in a closed office environment.
Today's workplaces seems to be shifting more and more towards open plan offices however this doesn't mean that closed office plans are dead. Indeed they offer many strengths as highlighted prior. Recent research suggests certain personality types are differently suited to closed and open planned working spaces.