The Open Oﬃce Concept Isn’t Working
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, goes the refrain. Only with the loss of partitioned oﬃces are companies realizing the huge benefits of privacy and sound proof booths which oﬀer personal space at work. The big movement towards open oﬃces has reversed, and there is now an increasing number of companies and industry experts who have discovered that open oﬃces don’t work.
The expected gains of open oﬃces have not completely transpired. Communication can even be inhibited in an environment where every conversation is a distraction and every word can be heard by ears that it wasn’t meant for.
This drive towards communal working has, in many oﬃces, come at a cost to staﬀ morale and performance. The lack of privacy and individual working spaces can have a detrimental aﬀect on staﬀ members’ ability to focus. Overall it has created a stressful and unproductive environment.
The cons of an open oﬃce space are manifold. Here are the details.
A Lack of Privacy
Open oﬃces do not oﬀer the privacy that traditional cubicle-based oﬃces do. Employees regularly need to deal with sensitive information discreetly, assuring their customers or business partners the highest level of care and focus – which can be diﬃcult with the distracting noise generated in open-plan oﬃces.
Individual Performance Is Sacrificed
Oﬃces are a place to think, be creative and be focused. But the constant noise of a busy work space can be too distracting to allow employees to be at their most productive. Many tasks that an employee will carry out on a daily basis will not require constant interaction, and in fact they would be better served doing most tasks in a quiet individual working unit.
Performance in General Suﬀers
To maximize staﬀ performance and well-being, a working environment needs to find the right balance for all employees. Open-plan workplaces, where staﬀ do not feel at ease, can make certain individuals feel alienated while lowering staﬀ morale overall. Employee disenfranchisement results in a high turnover of staﬀ and increased absenteeism, both of which will have a high cost to any business.
In open oﬃces, all the staﬀ are exposed to the same environmental conditions, whether that be light, temperature or noise level. Weight, gender and age can have a significant factor on how someone feels the cold, and finding a consensus on the right temperature can be very diﬃcult to achieve. Disputes can occur as a result of a tug of war on the issues and staﬀ morale can be negatively aﬀected.
A Place to Speak Freely
Open oﬃces don’t provide higher-level managers with a space to handle sensitive conversations. Employees need a place where they can speak freely and openly about work with their management, without the risk that their opinions will aﬀect co-workers.
A Personal Space
Staﬀ often benefit from a personalized environment, which best serves their working needs. In an open oﬃce, desks are rotated, and staﬀ are discouraged from keeping the same work station. Much of an employee’s day is spent at work and their ability to individualize their cubicle can really help to make their environment more comfortable.
In non-fixed seating plans, workers often choose to sit next to people that they would speak with ordinarily rather than who they need to communicate with on projects. Soon, cliques can develop based on where and who staﬀ choose to sit with – and this further divides oﬃces.
More than any staﬀ, managers are often heavily burdened with responsibility and need areas to think calmly. They can find that they are in constant demand in unpartitioned oﬃces, and they are asked to help or find a solution to questions or disagreements that co-workers would normally solve themselves.
Work can be stressful, and low morale in the oﬃce is often caused by disagreements and dissatisfaction with co-workers. Time and space are healers, and distance allows people to cool oﬀ and come together at a later date. However, with less privacy, conflicts can often become exacerbated and lead to breakdowns in interpersonal relations.
A Failed Model
The open oﬃce model has been far more complicated and has given more headaches than its creators conceived. The concept has failed its premise of improving communication, and at times, has even slowed it. It has proven to be too open to oﬀer privacy and a favorable environment to work in. Businesses are waking up to this reality and making changes to their oﬃces.