Open Office vs Closed Office: What's Better?

Office

When it comes to designing your office, should you go for an open or a closed layout? The answer to this question varies from one business to another. There are many factors to consider when it comes to deciding which layout will best suit your needs.

The Open Office Layout

Let's first talk about open office layouts. An open office is an open-plan work environment where there are no enclosed office rooms or walled cubicles for employees. Usually, employees work in the same room, often beside each other, while seated along a huge desk or on workstations positioned close together. Open offices first came around the 1950's when employers needed to find a way to cut business costs through reduced construction fees. Today, it is the standard office layout for both startups and Fortune 500 companies.

Advantages

  • Collaboration: Office designs plays a huge role in the company culture you want to build. The type of layout can dictate your employee's satisfaction level, attitude, and organization. So, if you want your company to have a collaborative, social, and energetic environment, an open office will help you achieve it. Open offices are believed to encourage better communication and teamwork. Open offices are mostly favored by companies that rely on employee engagement and participation such as marketing agencies, journalism newsrooms, and graphic design companies.

  • Cost-friendly: When it comes to financial aspects, it is without a doubt that an open office layout is much cheaper and practical compared to a closed office. With an open-plan, you can squeeze more people per square footage of the area. You need not buy a lot of furniture too. By placing workstations against each other, you can create lots of space to fit everyone in the company.

Disadvantages

  • Noise: Too much noise in open offices can prevent employees from working productively. If you have employees working on tasks that require concentration and quiet space, noise from an open office can be a huge roadblock to their productivity. To make matters worse, employees also tend to have different thresholds for noise and concentration.

  • Conflicts: When a group of people with different personalities and beliefs are crammed into a prison-like room to work for 8 hours a day, there's a high possibility of misunderstandings and conflicts. If not managed, it can hurt productivity and also increase stress-level among employees.

  • Spreading illnesss: Unlike closed office where there are cubicles to separate one another, in an open office you get to interact with everyone in the company. If an employee is sick with a communicable disease, they can easily transfer and spread the virus to the rest of the department.

The Closed Office Layout

A closed office, on the contrary, is a type of working area where employees have their own individual working areas distinctly divided either by using pucca walls, cubicles, or panels. The term 'cubicle farms' which used to describe the closed office trend back in the 1980s is now in decline.

Advantages

  • Privacy: Segmented private offices are the best choice if you want privacy among your employees. Privacy plays an important role in decision-making process. It also helps bring a sense of security among your employees. With a wall around them, they don't have to feel afraid of being called out for idling or doing something that's not work-related (even if they're working to their best all the time!). They can also personalize their cubicles by hanging family photos or memorabilia that will inspire them to work better.

  • Better performance: Unlike open offices, closed offices can help minimise distraction allowing employees to work better and produce quality results. Closed offices are better used for companies with jobs that require concentration and quiet working areas such as law firms, accounting agencies, and other businesses in the financial sector.

  • Clear Hierarchy: osed office environments provides employees a clear understanding of office hierarchy. The higher their position in the company, the better offices they work in. This can be an incentive for new staff to work harder for the company.

Disadvantages

  • Costly: Enclosed offices are significantly more expensive to build and maintain than an open-plan office. Since each employee has his own workspace or cubicle, you will need more area to fit every member of your team. A large office space will also require more furniture, heating, and maintenance.

  • Low Supervision: It's hard to supervise all employees in a closed office environment compared to the open-plan layout. Because your employees are in their own private offices or cubicles, it can be difficult to understand what everyone is doing.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, employee preference will still account for the success of your office's layout. While some employees thrive in open offices, some can work better in a closed space. I believe the best solution is to create an office that has open and closed spaces. This can better help employees find the ideal environment for work and get the right mix between productivity and collaboration.

Armela Escalona

Freelance blogger who writes about work, tech and productivity

6 min read

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