Office Design

Open Offices – Are They Really Worth The Hype?

people working in an open office layout


Once upon a time, cubicles and private-offices, with their soundproofing and privacy, were how workspaces were meant to be. Then, walls were broken down and long desks were brought in to make room for ‘contemporary’, more ‘open’ office floor plans. 

Initially introduced to the world by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook, the magnitude of moving in the opposite direction to plan office spaces created a ripple effect across the world. Clearly, it worked very well for them. Quickly, many other enterprises started latching on to the open work culture trend that fostered teamwork and collaboration. Team outings reduced and trying out new initiatives for team-building exercises weren’t required anymore. 

What followed was a pattern where cubicle-heavy workspaces of yesteryear were quickly replaced with modern, open, planned office spaces. WeWork is one company that moved fast and banked on this change in mindset toward workplace layouts. Quite recently, they took over Expedia’s Chicago 3-floor office and transformed it into a 2-floor office that still accommodated everyone without “sacrificing employee satisfaction”. 

It’s always very tempting to conform to ongoing trends, but know that an open office layout isn’t for everyone. While the jury is still out on how productive you can be in such an environment, The Washington Post boldly revealed that the open-office trend is “destroying the workplace”. However, research doesn’t completely negate the open office’s strengths. 

So, before you break down walls and reorganize your office into an open, more social space, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.  


Why opt for an open office plan?

> Cost effectiveness

The primary benefit of having an open office plan at the workplace is the dollars saved when you don’t have to buy desks and cubicle walls for each individual. In fact, small businesses have sensibly invested in renting fully-furnished offices located inside dedicated workspace buildings. With trivial elements associated with a functional workplace (like high-speed internet, stationery, multifunctional printers, common lounge areas, free refreshments, and cleaning) taken care of, the founders and their employees can channel their focus toward the growth of their brand.

> Flexibility

Committing to a single layout won’t ever be an issue as open-office workplaces are designed to maximize flexibility and tend to fit more people into an open space. Moreover, you have the option to rearrange the layout whenever you see fit or conveniently move certain teams around. With a traditional layout, you have no choice but to expand your office by renting multiple floors or buildings. Even if you’re a freelancer or a remote worker, it doesn’t get more flexible than coming and going as you please. 

> No more facades

Managers holed up in their private cabins seem unapproachable. The removal of barriers between employees and their supervisors is one of the major reasons that more businesses are switching to open-office plans. With all barriers gone, even the founder of the company works at the same desk as their newest employee. This leads to the feeling of being part of a team, and serves as the foundation of imminent innovation and collaboration.


The troubling drawbacks

> Distractions

The sheer number of distractions caused is one of the biggest drawbacks of an open office. You begin overhearing conversations throughout your day at work; conversations that you don’t want to hear while you’re trying to get some serious work done. Sometimes it can get so noisy, you won’t be able to hear yourself think, let alone pay attention to an important client on the phone. The lack of focus pushes employees to a tipping point which ultimately makes them more irritable and aggressive. 

> Lack of privacy

Most employees, in favor of closed, concentrated spaces detest the open office culture because of the lack of privacy. This is because people feel like they’re ‘on display’ while they’re engaged in creative tasks. Being in such a state of surveillance usually means being in a perpetual state of anxiety. While working with several other people in your vicinity, you cannot take a private call without someone listening to what you’re saying. Nor will you be able to browse the Internet on your phone during a well-deserved break without being concerned about someone peering over your shoulder. Quite naturally, this gives the bosses an unparalleled ability to keep an eye on their employees. Although this does seem like a pro for the boss, employees are bound to feel feel like they’re being watched all the time, which could hamper their productivity.

> Stress & germs

Given the lack of privacy and an increased number of distractions that tag along with an open office culture, most individuals experience high levels of stress. Since people feel the need to appear productive, they start to multitask more than they should, which often leads to incomplete tasks and delayed deadlines. Not only does this cause ineffectiveness and frustration, but these people are more likely to deal with cardiac issues and digestive problems. Additionally, no cubicles or walls means an employee fighting a cold is likely to spread it to their co-workers. In such scenarios, retaining your best talent becomes very difficult. 


Aim for a mix & match

When it comes to office floor plans, there’s no such thing as a one-model-fits-all for anyone. Successful companies have a healthy balance between open and closed spaces. People seated in clusters present an opportunity for positive cultural collisions which in turn, enhances ideation. On the other hand, closed-off spaces in the same office lets employees zone in on important tasks without distractions, and also helps them relax and enjoy some alone time between tasks. The ideal workplace is a hybrid space that allows collaboration with communal areas and also accommodates the need for peace and quiet.

No workplace can be functional without good office furniture, irrespective of what you think about open offices. The amount of time and money involved in selecting, sourcing and purchasing your office furniture is simply not worth it, especially if you’re just getting started with your business. Working with BureauOne allows you to lease premium office furniture from a diverse range of options that encompass various styles for every zone in your workplace. With value-added benefits like free space planning and speedy white-glove delivery & assembly, choosing BureauOne as your preferred office furniture partner ensures that your office is work-ready without you having to lift a finger.  

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