The open-plan office space isn’t as miserable as it has recently been made out to be. Media outlets such as ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Journal of Environmental Psychology’ have argued that offices with open floor plans make for unhappy employees. The largest areas of complaints are with high noise levels, and a lack of privacy, both auditory and visual. According to these articles, the positive aspect of open-plans, natural and easily attainable interactions, was outweighed by the negatives they experienced in their workdays.
Despite these allegations, there is a case to be made for open work space. Provided the office layout meets two important measures, it can function at an outstanding level. The first measure: “The office layout has to suit the work processes and organizational cultures of the occupants.” While this may seem like common sense, it is of the utmost importance. Industries like Radio Broadcasting and Market Trading need transparency in every aspect of their environment. They deal so largely in communication and an awareness to new information that interactions are placed on a gilded pedestal over privacy. On the other end of the spectrum lies the severe need for enclosed personal spaces. In realms like academics, not only is quiet space needed for research and concentration, but also to discuss sensitive matters with students. Now to the second measure: “Detailed office configuration has to be carefully considered and well designed.” Office planners must take details into consideration that the average person would not even realize are issues. Each space is unique and needs a different configuration for a different end result. Things like floor plate size, visibility around workstations, density, and proximity to noise, all have to be calculated. To deem all open-plan environments unfit is to ignore the needs of an expansive section of our workforce and to neutralize the labor put into shaping these spaces.
Below are two examples of open-plan spaces. One is a densely populated broadcasting company and the other is a flexible and spacious PR Group. Both are doing a phenomenal job of satisfying the needs exclusive to the occupants they serve because they were designed specifically around those occupants. With the wide array of open-plan designs there should be no discontent from employees if the fit is right. Any group that is having difficulty with their open space merely has not adopted the correct arrangement for their operation.
-Kyrie Woodring, Creative Marketing