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Monday, April 13, 2009

Advantages and Disadvantages of Open Plan Offices

From time to time I ask other members of our network to submit an article that is valuable to entrepreneurs seeking to improve their performance. This week Paul Smith from searchofficespace.com provides this article.

When choosing how to plan an office, you are faced with the decision of an open plan or separate offices. This is a difficult decision for many, and there are advantages and disadvantages of both. Here are some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of open plan offices.

Advantages:

  • Open plan offices are more economical. You are able to provide more work spaces and place more employees in an office.
  • Studies have been done to show that the cubicle type working area does not affect productivity as of yet, and estimate that the cubicle area could even be up to 21% smaller without affecting productivity. With a closed plan office, the amount of workspaces and employees is less.
  • Communication is obviously easier between workstations and departments. There is no time wasted between offices because everyone is in the same area. While this advantage wouldn't make a huge difference in the well being of a company, it might save employees some frustration during the course of their day. When employees work in a closed office space, they can run themselves mindless with small tasks that are unnecessary in an open plan office.
  • Things are easier for the supervisors, as everyone is in a centralized area. There is no need to track someone down from office to office. Normally, with an open office plan, managers and senior managers are in constant contact with the staff. While running through to deal with one thing, managers and senior managers can deal with any other issues or employees. This makes handling issues and problems go much faster. With the employees being in constant contact with managers and senior managers, they are able to reach management more quickly and deal with issues. This means that issues get resolved faster, and this leads to more productivity.
  • Open space offices are more economical when it comes to money that is put out for air conditioning and electricity. One centralized area is being heated, or cooled, and lighted. This is opposed to several different rooms, each having to be heated or cooled separately. This means that the company saves money.
  • If the layout of the office needs to be changed, it can be done quickly and with minimal effort. If a closed plan office layout needs to be changed, serious issues can arise the way they never will with open office plans.

Disadvantages:

  • Open space offices are noisier and can be more chaotic than closed plan offices. Employees are in one large area, and phone conversations or conversations between employees will be overheard easily. When there are several conversations happening at one time, it can get quite noisy. This can lead to employees becoming distracted which may lessen productivity.
  • People passing to and fro can also cause distraction of employees. In a closed office plan, disturbances like this wouldn't happen as much.
  • In an open office space, security is reduced. Each employee lacks a lockable door like they would have if each one had a separate office. This can lead to risks and issues that the company may not want to face.
  • Privacy is difficult to obtain with an open office plan. If family members call, or if a confidential call needs to be made, it can be difficult. With individual offices, these things are more possible. Employees may feel uncomfortable being in such close quarters with their coworkers when confidential calls need to be made.
  • Sicknesses and infections can spread like wildfire in an environment like an open office plan. When flu season hits, you can bet that most employees will catch it.
  • Lighting, heating, and air conditioning to suit all of the employees' tastes can be difficult to achieve. With a closed office plan, employees are able to keep their individual offices the way they like them.
  • Senior staff or employees which have been with the company longer than most will most likely feel as if they are entitled to a private office. This can cause problems among the employees, which can damage productivity and employee relationships.

There are advantages and disadvantages to an open office plan, and normally the risks need to be assessed and the pros and cons weighed against each other before a decision is made. However, with a closed office plan and an open office plan, you will find supporters and people who are against both. Ultimately, the decision needs to be about what is best for the company or business.

Article by Paul Smith. Paul is part of the SearchOfficeSpace.com serviced office London team. Visit http://www.searchofficespace.com to search for serviced offices, executive suites and office space rental throughout the World including the UK, America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

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