For those that cut their corporate teeth in the land of cubicles, the memories aren’t that pleasant. A disconnect from peers, a sense of being caged in, and a lack of fresh air all combined to make the cubicle a business stereotype. In response, forward thinking design consultants came up with the open office concept, planning around space as a shared commodity for increased productivity and creative thought.
But even the open concept design has its downfalls.
Focusing on the positive
An open concept design’s strength lies in its ability to bring a group of peers together to better collaborate on projects at hand. Communications are clarified in face to face conversation, and materials are more readily shared. Open concept design removes the stale walls of cubicles and creates a flow through the working space, increasing employee interaction and responsiveness.
The design also encourages movement throughout the office environment, increasing employee interactivity and a healthy body regimen. This translates to fewer days lost to illness and call outs, while improving the overall mental health of the group. Also, without the cubicle walls, employees are less likely to drift off while simply looking busy should a manager pass their space. In an open concept, productivity increases thanks to an increase in accountability.
The concept is vastly more attractive than cubicles, increasing client appreciation and translating visual style into competencies within contracted projects. Your office looks good, employees will feel better about their work, and therefore your final products will reflect that pride.
The cons of an open concept design
As innovative as an open concept design is for a corporate environment, there are pitfalls to efficiency and productivity as well. Employees are more likely to interrupt co-workers with non-work related conversation, disrupting concentration and focus. Without the cubicle wall to separate them, employee potential for wasted time is increased while dealing with a conversation run amok.
The lack of cubicle walls also softens the space comprehension for employees. Desks and seating, as well as storage solutions become adjustable to those within the immediate area and can disrupt safe and fluid traffic flow. What was once a wide aisle to the conference room yesterday can become an ever-narrowing corridor that peter’s out at the water bubbler, with nowhere to go but back.
Storage eyesores also become a problem, as stockpiles of paper reams and odds and ends become centralized by employees for quick access rather than being stored in off-floor closets. Just as with children in the home, a clean surface has the potential to collect odds and ends until it is made unusable with clutter.
To mitigate the negative aspects of an open floor design, which still outweigh the positives of cubicle design, several tactics can be implemented. Weekly group gatherings can help with communicating shared working etiquette, including cleaning up and not creating a disturbing atmosphere through distracting socialization.
A walk through of the space with all parties involved can help determine boundaries for desk placements and other furniture pieces, including mobile storage solutions for often used supplies. Implementing rolling carts that work with the design of the space, staged at respectable intervals, will allow fewer collection points and centralize efficient supply acquisition for employees.
The benefits of an open concept design outweigh the return to the old cubicle mentality, but everyone in the group environment must be on board with the program in order for it to work. Conscientious community spirit, an awareness of personal space and a dedication to reducing clutter can make the concept a positive choice for motivating employees, impressing clients, and improving productivity.