Do open office plans work?
When you looking to create your new workplace design, the big question is; is the open-plan workplace dead? This is a debate we identified years ago before reports started coming back about how destructive pure open- plan workplaces are to concentration, deep thinking and high-level output.
One factor that is really interesting is that the teams that started working in pure open plan were often in start-up stage with a corresponding culture, grungy warehouses fitted out with open-plan benching, inhabited by younger demographics including designers, coders, and people that have gone on to create some amazing apps in the technology & creative sphere. In order to achieve this kind of result, a collaborative space with a lot of idea meshing is required.
What you also sometimes find is that those same people have done incredible work hours. They’ve worked through times of intense concentration, even putting sleep on hold to breakthrough to a new idea. Designing different spaces for people in different industries can’t have a one size fits all approach as what works for one will hold back the other. You can’t always just go into an empty warehouse, polish the floors, put in some open plan desks in, some couches, and bingo we’ve got our workspace that’s going to deliver for our growing business and our team. That’s a big mistake.
Is the open plan work-space dead as a one size fits all? Yes, it is, and it never worked.
People often like the idea of a cruciform workstation arrangement or people sitting in a row directly facing each other with a low screen in between. That works great when you’ve got workers like accountants, where there’s subdued levels of conversations and not a lot of high-volume discussion so people can do their work.
We have also transformed several workplaces for companies in industries such as logistics and freight where people are quietly sitting there with a headset on booking shipping containers etc. They’re doing all their work in comparative silence, when compared to an industry like real estate, so this works really well.
Then you get other types of workplaces where there’s sales or business development teams, and they’re expected to make constant contact with clients on quality calls. They can’t have the noise of the hubbub in the background distracting them, as the person needs to be deeply concentrating for the strategic call that’s going to take the client from warm to hot. This doesn’t mean that it must be deathly quiet, but you must factor in acoustic strategies to make the space functional.
The open workplace is dead on its own. It now requires a much broader overview to create a successful, usable hybrid of new and old. There needs to be spaces for deep concentration and collaboration. We need places where people can come together as well as places where people can achieve work requiring deep concentration.
If you are having difficulty in your current workplace, or looking to relocate or expand, we would love to take you through some of the factors you will need to consider and help you find the best style of work for your organization.