Open Office Concept: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

open office concept


open office conceptIn the early twentieth century, architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright viewed the traditional enclosed office environment as a ‘fascist’ concept that constituted a standard of limitations for creativity. In an effort to encourage open communication, companies transitioned to the ‘open office layout’ with the removal of all walls, allowing people the opportunity to be interactive. The question on the minds of many that have adopted this newer open office concept, “Did these companies get it wrong?”

The Good:

The goal behind the open office layout was to evolve from the traditional ‘cube farm’, which some say hindered staff interaction to a more collaborative setting. In a standard office environment, it was common for co-workers to actually call each other for client or business information, even though they were just a foot apart. This can create an impersonal climate within a workplace, rather than a space that fosters creativity and a team alliance. Creating the most productive office requires an understanding of both the employees and the space requirements.

Placing the individuals that have the most interactive communication in close proximity to one another works best. However, be mindful of sensitivities of personality traits of your employees when configuring an open office layout. When accomplished with a high level of thought and consideration of roles, personalities, space and workflow, an open office layout can take an average conversation and change it into a creative and profitable solution.

The Bad:

Business has historically associated a private office with an air of importance within the company as well as offering privacy. The removal of these two elements in an open office layout can create a feeling of vulnerability and constant interruptions. A recent article by the New York Times, states that even though about 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have open office floor plans, numerous studies have shown that employees that work in offices with no or low partitions suffer increased stress from lack of privacy.

For many introverts, the open office layout can be a very challenging transition and even lead to anxiety. Extroverts become excited and quickly make use of the increased social interaction, often to a fault, forgoing work goals for social updates. The personal touch of even the most modest cubicle will be something that many long for as employees are forced to learn how to stay productive in surroundings that involve side conversations and open-ended questions.

The Ugly:

Saving money in real estate square footage to accommodate staff is typically not the right motivator. Although you may try to sell your staff on the idea that an open office layout will be a more team-centered approach, it may have the opposite effect causing the office to feel like a room that is filled with noise, interruptions and a lack of cohesion. The decision to create an open office layout for the wrong reasons can create new challenges in the workplace, with the potential to cause more harm than good to your bottom line.

The Solution:

Each company is unique in its culture and people. Before taking the leap into an open office layout (and sending shockwaves into the system), you might want to bring in an advisory company to help you discern the best methods for a layout that can accommodate the needs and personalities of employees while helping improve productivity.

Studies from the 70% of companies that have migrated to an open layout, now show the open office concept can create major issues with productivity, creative thinking and employee satisfaction. Do the benefits of building team camaraderie really outweigh the negative effects on work performance?

If employers are committed to making the open-office model work there must be a way to measure efficiency. Set up an area that team members can congregate in, such as smaller conference rooms, when they need to have a ‘group talk’. Also, it is essential to create rules related to noise and inter-activities.

Lastly, consider allowing employees to telecommute as a way to balance an open office model. This model has proven to boost productivity with employees working more hours and taking fewer breaks. There are also typically fewer distractions and interruptions when employees work remotely.


If you’re looking for a Virtual Office in North Scottsdale, Advantage Office Suites offers many options including virtual offices, flex-suites and executive office suites. Call Advantage Office Suites today at (480) 305-2000 for more information or click here to request a quick quote

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