Office layout design has evolved with the times. All you’ve got to do is watch a movie from the 1980s to see a world when cosy cubicles were all the rage. That was the standard office plan.
The world has moved on, with companies choosing between variations of an open office layout and those that have a more closed office style.
So, how do they stack up: open office versus closed office?
The one thing that a closed office setting can offer you is more privacy. That might be particularly important in roles where you are handling sensitive information. From a personal perspective, it’s also a space that can be more easily individualised with personal pictures and decor. in some ways the dynamic is like having your own private office.
Contrast that to an open office where everyone around can see and know your business. It’s far harder to maintain the same level of personal and business privacy because the office layout simply isn’t as accommodating.
An open office space by its nature is more geared towards communal engagement. Everyone can see, hear and connect with those sitting nearby. Companies like the idea that open office environments foster a better corporate culture. If you’re new or freelancing, you’re more likely to engage with those around you that have been there for longer. So, intuitively, open offices are better for productivity. In a closed office you’re more likely to keep yourself to yourself, simply because the office layout makes it easier to do so. Don’t expect the same kind of energy and atmosphere because of that.
That being said, recent research from Harvard Business School suggests a different perspective. It shows that open offices, in fact, can decrease face-to-face collaboration, reduce employees’ productivity, lower focus, and even encourage sexism. While communication and atmosphere may improve, the unintended consequence of this office layout may be the creation of additional unwanted distractions.
Riotly Social Media's office >>See inside Riotly Social Media's office
From a space efficiency perspective, open offices are a more cost-effective option than a closed office. Without the need to invest in individual desk areas and cubicles, you can do more with less.
Shared office space can allow even small businesses to have the open office layout experience. Such enterprises are increasingly choosing to rent fully furnished private offices that have open office space set inside office buildings.
PaloIT's Office. >>See inside PaloIT's office
The change in office layout is partly a change in the way that businesses operate. Different organisational cultures will encourage different office plans. If you find yourself working for Google or Amazon, you’re far more likely to be exposed to an open office layout. You’d be hard pressed to find a young technology company that hasn’t wanted to embrace this layout.
But don’t be surprised if a role in government department finds you in a more closed office space. It’s simply the way these operations are.
There’s no “one-size fits all” when it comes to office layout. Some organisations are more suited to the open office, particularly if the it fits the culture. Then there are others that have thrived for generations in a private office setting. No doubt the open office versus closed office debate will rage on. Ultimately, though, it comes down to meeting the needs of the organisations themselves and which office layout approach best serves the employees.
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