Competitive businesses look closely at how office space affects an employee’s ability to get work done. The design conversation traditionally centred around the decision between open plan vs closed plan office. An open office plan is a workspace where everyone works in the same room, sitting together. A closed plan, or cubicles office, is a work environment where employees have their own individual workspace divided by walls or privacy panels.
Each layout has its own advantages and disadvantages. Many organisations are exploring new blended office design concepts with both open and closed elements to provide work zones that meet a variety of employee needs. Explore the pros and cons of open vs closed office space and learn how you can design a cost-effective workspace that positively affects employee wellbeing and productivity.
The open office plan debate
Open office plans have been around for decades in manufacturing floors, newsrooms, and graphic design firms. Cubicles were first introduced in the 1960s as an alternative to the noisy, distracting open plan. After the cubicles office design peaked in the late 1990s, businesses seeking to inspire a more social, energetic, and innovative workforce began to adopt open office designs. As a result, about 70% of US employees today work in an open office plan.
Unfortunately, there is mounting research evidence that open office plans may not be right for every business. The open plan actually decreases face-to-face collaboration, makes it harder for workers to concentrate, increases stress, and even makes it easier to get sick. In fact, 62% of US employees recently survey by YouGov would prefer a closed layout at their next employer.
What you need to know about closed office layouts
Before your firm puts up expensive wall dividers or cubicles again, take time to assess the needs of your workforce. Are distractions and a lack of privacy taking a toll on employee productivity and engagement? Though a closed office layout does minimise visual distractions, it may not be enough to spark real change in your organisation. A cubicles office provides the visual protection employees want, but does not eliminate noise.
Four ways to design a quality workspace
The most successful organisations are improving the office layout by creating an ecosystem of spaces that supports all modes of work. According to the Gensler US Workplace Survey 2019, 77% of employees prefer work environments that incorporate features from both open and closed office plans. To provide a healthier and more productive work environment for employees, consider adding the following spaces to your office layout:
1. Quiet work zones for focus.
Provide private, quiet environments so employees can concentrate on independent work or need time for deep thinking. One option is to create several office privacy booths—cozy spaces that minimise distractions by providing both visual and acoustic privacy. If your firm lacks the square footage or has a tight budget, you can try designating a smaller room located away from loud open spaces for quiet work.
2. Flexible space that inspires collaboration.
Create and offer a variety of flexible workspaces that allow groups of all sizes and types to engage in face-to-face collaboration. These rooms or spaces should include moveable seating and tools that support ideation such as whiteboards. Make sure these rooms also support technology to keep participants engaged, bring in outside collaborators, and preserve and share notes or ideas.
3. Help employees make social connexions.
Look for spaces throughout your office where employees are already gathering such as the lunchroom, lounge area, foyer, or courtyard. Add in elements like textured materials, warm lighting, and built-in amenities that make the space lively and inviting. “Socialising at work helps build trust, encourage teamwork, and allows employees to work together more effectively.”
4. Enhance wellbeing with time and space to rejuvenate.
Recharge rooms can take on any number of sizes and forms. Ask your employees what type of space they need to step away from the workday stress and relax. Your firm could offer a room or two for yoga, spa treatments/massages, or meditation.
Make smarter office space decisions
While some organisations are easily implementing flexible workspace design, others aren’t sure where to begin. A great place to start is to fully understand how your current space is used. Asure Software’s workplace sensors provide real-time insights on levels of occupancy, utilisation, and the environment to help businesses design smarter office spaces.