Are you thinking of obtaining professional office space for your business, refurbishing your existing premises or moving offices? Whichever situation you’re in, this is the perfect time to think about the layout and design of your new office environment to make sure that it reinforces the way you do business.
One fundamental question that you need to tackle first of all, and definitely before you start shopping for desks and chairs, is whether it makes sense to have an open plan office design. In contrast to traditional office premises that are divided into individual office rooms, an open plan design comprises workstations that share one large single space. Desks may be grouped together in functional units, and there may be dividing screens or short panels providing a degree of partitioning, but other than that there are no doors or walls to separate the workspace.
Whether this arrangement can work well for your business depends on a number of factors, not least the number of people involved, your business activity and ethos. Certainly, your co-workers are likely to have an opinion on the subject of ‘open plan’, and will either love the prospect of greater communication with their colleagues, or hate the added distraction this may bring.
Open plan office designs offer many advantages to the right business. Consider the following pros and cons to find out whether it’s the right solution for your business premises.
Without any physical barriers in the way, an open plan environment facilitates communication. This means a greater flow of creative ideas and sharing of views that takes place naturally and in a workspace where everyone feels involved. Co-workers are encouraged to interact and work together to find solutions, which ultimately leads to better business outcomes.
Teamwork thrives on communication. The team shares a sense of camaraderie, purpose and common business goals. Particularly in sales driven environments where individuals learn from and encourage each other to achieve, an open plan office could be the perfect solution.
Without walls and doors to consider, it’s straightforward to reconfigure the office space as necessary or when your business grows. Whether you need to fit in extra desks or new members of staff, accommodate breakout seating or meeting areas, it means you can stay in your current premises for longer and save money. Cost savings can also be achieved by sharing utilities and IT equipment.
The good thing about an open plan office is that all activities are transparent. You will know straight away if anyone is checking up on a private ebay auction or texting from their smartphone during working hours. Whether or not you need to intervene depends on your management style and the seriousness of the offence. However, the outcome will be less timewasting and increased productivity in the future.
Noise and Distraction
Sharing the same office space as your co-workers requires discipline and tolerance. Whether it’s people talking on the phone or to each other, it’s important to keep the noise down, so no-one gets distracted from their work. However, as long as everyone adapts to the new workspace, productivity should not suffer.
Lack of Privacy
With no protection from prying eyes and no doors to close, confidentiality may be an issue. What about private meetings, confidential phone calls or business sensitive data?In an open plan office, you may need to be inventive to overcome the lack of privacy that every business will need from time to time.
Every office has different personalities. If you feel that the ‘loud ones’ are dominating proceedings and that the ‘quiet ones’ can’t get a word in, you may have a problem. Whether it’s simply a matter of adapting personal behaviours or tackling bullying, any negative interactions may be detrimental to office morale.
Hygiene & Health Issues
The willingness to share and communicate is a good quality, except for when it comes to microbes. However, unless office hygiene procedures are followed to the letter, it’s only a matter of time before viruses, bacteria and other germs are shared. In an open plan office, you need to take precautions to make sure this does not lead to rising sickness levels among staff.
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer and frequenter of many an office. For the information in this article, Kent-based specialist Whiteleys Office Furniture were consulted.