Open vs Enclosed Office Space
Through research, the world has been shown the work environment has an effect on the productivity or staff. However, there is no correct way to design an office that works for everyone. Therefore, it is down to the individual business to experiment, observe and design the best environment for their staff and their requirements.
Over the course of this post will outline the positives and negatives of both sides, in an effort to give you a helpful insight into the two most common office plans used throughout the world.
Let’s get started!
Open Plan Offices
An open plan office is an office plan in which there is no use of separated workstations for individual workers, commonly without anything in between them. An open plan office can come in various forms, the most basic being row upon row of workstations consisting of merely desks and chairs. More advanced open plan offices will make use of modular and movable partitions (commonly partitions screens), alongside the pre-existing office surroundings to help create an original office space, designed to meet the requirements of the business.
Closed/Enclosed Plan Offices
An enclosed office plan is an office space that utilises walls and panels to create separate areas for individuals or teams. It is ideal if you are dealing with multiple projects at a time or confidential information, as you can separate teams to deal with specific projects, tasks or departments. Lately, we have seen a rise in the number of enclosed offices coming back into mainstream businesses, without the near constant distractions of the open plan work productivity is a big factor in the change back.
Positives of Open Plan Offices
One of the biggest positives of an open plan office is the fact that it makes use of the most amount of space possible. It allows the business to allocate for finances to other areas of the business by lowering the cost of purchasing a business space, which if you are based in an inner city environment, can be insanely expensive.
Communication & Collaboration
Open plan office will allow staff to communicate and collaborate more between themselves since there is nothing to get in the way. Since the boundaries have been taken away, it is easier for staff to regularly interact with each other in a formal or informal manner. Staff can interact with one another without the need for scheduling meetings or appointments.
When working in an open plan office there is nowhere to hide, everyone can see you. This makes staff less likely to waste time on things that are non-work related. In an enclosed office you may be able to way with scrolling through social media or playing mobile games, but in an open plan office, you will be more attuned of your surroundings and more likely to work.
Positives of Closed/Enclosed Plan Offices
Arguably the biggest flaw of the open plan office is the fundamental lack of privacy for staff members. However, you will be pleased to know that this is not a problem with enclosed offices. Staff can enjoy near complete, if not complete privacy, meaning they don’t have to move away from their desk to take phone calls or to have a spontaneous meeting. It also allows staff to create their own environment, something that they can comfortably work from.
Enclosed offices are generally healthier for staff members, in open-plan offices the risk of contracting an illness from a co-worker is twice as high as in an enclosed office. Since staff will generally be in their own ‘cubicle’ or office, or only in small teams and will not move out of that area often, it is likely (but not certain) that the bug will stay contained in that room.
Creative work generally calls for a quiet area for thinking which an enclosed office will give to staff. In an open plan office, you may be disrupted by co-workers or by the sounds of the office, that may make you lose the train of thought for a brilliant idea.
Negatives of Open Plan Offices
Since there will typically be more people in the same room with no walls in the way, it can generate many distractions for staff, leading to them losing time to focus on the tasks at hand. Many professions require near 100% concentration, in these lines of work it open office plans may have a negative effect on the quality of work due to constant disruption.
Lack of Privacy
Open plan offices without question provide less privacy for staff over closed plan offices. Whilst this will most likely impact high ranking staff members such as managers and executives, it is going to have an impact on the general members of staff. It is said to have a psychological effect on staff members and at the end of the day, will have an effect on productivity.
Since there will be a continuous number of distraction within an open plan office, the creativity of staff members may be put in jeopardy. Open plan offices are more likely to develop higher stress levels and decrease the concentration of staff due to high noise levels, non-stop disruptions and a lack of privacy. All of these factors contribute to reductions in creative thinking and will have a negative effect on staff.
Negatives of Closed/Enclosed Plan Offices
Difficulties of Supervision
Closed plan offices can lead to difficulties when supervising staff. The supervisor would have to go door-to-door in order to see what each member of staff is doing at a particular time. In doing this the supervisor is taking time away from his work to ensure staff are doing what they should be, resulting in the supervisor having to work longer hours to get their work done.
In an enclosed office, there are more barriers that prevent staff from communicating with each other. Since staff members are divided either individually or in groups, they are less likely to interact with others in the office. Typically, staff will only talk to each other as and when needed to get the job done, this creates a communication barrier between staff.
Close plan offices are made up of multiple smaller offices that have been erected to separate individuals or teams from each other. This style of office design will greatly reduce the amount of floor space available within the office, as walls and partitions will need to be erected in order to create the individual offices.