Many people work in open plan offices these days and they are often used in many different industry sectors. An open plan office is as the name suggests, it is an open space but is generally sectioned into small work spaces or cubicles by the use of panels or screens. There are pros and cons to this style of office.
One of the benefits of open plan offices is that they can improve communications within the office, encourage better team spirit and enhance organisational culture. It can make it easier for managers to connect with and encourage a good working relationship with the workforce. Another benefit of open plan is that hierarchy barriers are reduced or eradicated and this is known to improve working conditions. Much depends upon the type of work being done in the office. Individual offices can lead to feelings of being isolated and can make it more difficult for managers to be proactive in engaging with staff and encouraging teamwork. Often new members of staff, particularly juniors can find it less easy to integrate when placed in a separate office and this is where open plan can be hugely beneficial.
Another advantage of open plan offices is that they cost less to set up and run than the same office space set up to individual offices. It can be very cost effective and enable more staff to be billeted in the space available. This does not mean that you can cram huge numbers of people into a small area like battery hens, this would be very ineffective and cause distress to the staff resulting in high staff turnover and great dissatisfaction within the workforce.
Many private offices in the same space will cost more to run in terms of heating, air conditioning and maintenance. However, the downside of having only open plan is that private space may still be required for meetings, conferences and interviews so having a room for this purpose is a good idea if the cost can be justified.
It is relatively easy to change an open plan office so that it can be designed or arranged to function more efficiently. There will be fewer limitations with a larger room than with smaller ones and more cubicles can be added as and when required. The drawback is that there is a danger that too many people will be placed in the available space making conditions cramped. Also, members of staff will not be able to personalise their cubicle workspace in the same way they can an office.
An enclosed office does offer more privacy and security compared with open plan offices and there is little chance of preventing others from seeing what is being worked on in open plan and if the work is of a sensitive nature, a private office would be more appropriate. On the plus side, open plan can allow greater productivity and make it easier to share information particularly where constant updates are required. This really can lead to fantastic working relationships within the team and create a real buzz.
One thing that can be a bit of an issue in open plan offices is the noise level. Using good quality panels to create working cubicles can help to reduce the level of noise. Whilst it is impossible to completely eradicate all the noise, it can be reduced to a tolerable level.
The type of work your business is engaged in will dictate the sort of offices you require. If your work is sensitive or requires quiet conditions then open plan is probably not for you. If on the other hand, your business requires a strong team spirit and information sharing, open plan could be the right solution.