In a previous post, this blog discussed the ongoing debate over the effectiveness of open office layouts. The open office space has both staunch supporters and detractors, and both sides have made valid points.
The last post on this topic discussed the case for open office layouts. Now it is time to have a look at the chief arguments against these office space designs—here’s an overview of some of the major anti-open space points:
-The concept that employees will work more efficiently when placed in an open space together is, according to some, fundamentally misguided. For all the perceived benefits of an open office—a more social office, a less claustrophobic office layout, and so forth—it is not entirely clear how the open design fosters productivity. While the model has worked in some places—Google and Facebook especially come to mind—the open-office concept may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for companies.
-Communication between employees may become less sincere and private when it occurs in an open office space. When employees talk to one another in closed office spaces, they have to go out of their way to do so and usually communicate in relative privacy. However, in open office spaces, conversation between workers is so commonplace and can be heard by enough other workers that this conversation may take on a more formal tenor. This may be a concern for those looking to build camaraderie among workers.
-Introverted employees in particular may struggle with the lack of privacy and exposure to co-workers which come with the open office space model. The intimacy and security of a cubicle or personal office are treasured by many, and to sacrifice these traits is to risk irking a certain portion of a company’s employees!
-The noise level in open offices may be distracting to employees at times. Obviously, minimizing distractions is a chief goal for office space designers. However, the open office design may be antithetical to this aim in some cases. An open office space must be carefully acoustically planned so that noise will not echo. Even if the noise level is reduced in an open office, though, a cubicle-based office layout has the benefit of providing employees with ready-made shields against ambient noise. For all the criticism the cubicle faces these days, three walls can still keep out a good deal of distractions!
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