An open-plan office is a workspace that has minimum enclosed spaces, such as private offices.
Employees share the same space to work in, which can include desks, meeting spaces and areas for socialising.
Open-plan environments can create unique opportunities for collaboration – from problem solving to creative idea sessions – which can actually aid productivity and engagement. Ad-hoc discussions and ideas sharing can reduce the need for more formal time-consuming meetings. What to do:
For smooth collaboration, position employees who support each other in close proximity. For example, technical teams could work alongside creatives or sales teams could work beside the marketing department.
Create different work spaces of varying sizes for collaboration to really flourish. This includes private spaces for one or two people. Often during an ideas session, teams will meet up on mass, then break off into smaller groups, or individually, to develop ideas.
Removing physical barriers in an office means employees can speak openly with each other, without the need for phone calls, emails or formal meetings. Open offices often mean that employees of all levels work alongside each other, this can make managers or members of the c-suite much more approachable and keep them up to speed with what’s happening in their company. What to do:
Focus on creating flexible spaces that encourage teams to interact and communicate. Bear in mind that some teams don’t need to communicate as readily as others and may benefit more from working in quieter spaces.
Open-plan office designs are a lot more agile than offices with private rooms or fixed partitions. Therefore an open-plan space can be adapted to grow with your business as the company’s needs change. Successful designs provide a variety of spaces for employees to work in so they have the most appropriate set up for their individual requirements. What to do:
Provide a range of spaces and equipment for employees to use. This could include modular furniture that can be reconfigured easily, access to the right technology to allow easy set-up and private booths for phone calls or focused work.
Distractions and disruptions are key downsides of open-plan offices that are regularly cited in studies. According to one study, employees working in an open-plan office lose 86 minutes a day to distractions. Even brief interruptions can lead to employees making errors. With the right design, open-plan offices can actually aid productivity by providing a variety of workspaces to suit the different working requirements for individual employees. What to do:
Include space for employees to relax and work away from the standard desk set up. One in five office workers agree that an office which has an area where they can relax would improve their productivity.
Ensure every workspace is ‘tech-ready’ so employees can work seamlessly anywhere in the office.
Lack of privacy is a notorious problem in open-plan offices and can be costly – on average office workers lose 28% of their productive time to distractions. Thankfully, contemporary open-plan office design takes this into account. Managers have realised that working in isolation is sometimes necessary to give employees the space to concentrate and fully immerse themselves in a task. Privacy from stimulation gives employees the space to work (or simply ‘be’) away from noise and distractions. What to do:
Introduce ‘noise guidelines’ for employees that cover what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of distractions. This could include employees needing to use headphones when listening to videos or office-wide music only being played at certain times.
Provide employees with a space to take personal or sensitive phone calls or to have confidential meetings with other members of the team.
Design private workspaces within the open-plan office for people to work individually, by creating designated quiet spaces in the form of booths or pods that keep sound to a minimum.
Smaller offices can sometimes present a challenge in terms of maximising space whilst ensuring a layout that increases productivity. In this guide, we offer some tips on getting the most out of your small office space with some recent case studies included.