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It’s a long-lasting debate. Are open plan offices really collaborative and cost-effective, or simply overcrowded and unproductive?

In an open plan office, workstations are shared by employees within an exposed floor plan. There are few (if any) separate rooms or enclosed spaces, and this is said to foster a flow of ideas that would be difficult in more private offices.

The argument is important for both new and existing companies, as it is essential that your workplace is optimised to boost productivity and retention. With your business in mind, we look at the pros and cons to help you decide if an open plan design is right for you, or if it’s time to consult an office fit out company.

Pros Of An Open Plan Office

They Can Be Cost-Effective

For companies who don’t have the budget for a large location, open plan offices can be a good solution. The shared desk style means you can accommodate a sizeable team of employees, which important is you want to grow as a company.

However, the shared desk style can be uncomfortable for staff if the layout is too claustrophobic. A potential solution is to contact an office fit out contractor that specialises in space planning. This way you can discuss ways to reconfigure your office so it is less claustrophobic, but still accommodates your employees.

Saving money also means you can invest your savings back into your business. You may wish to invest in giving your office a contemporary makeover, which is good for staff morale. Investing in up-to-date IT facilities is a smart idea. For fans of the open plan style, you can now integrate foldaway desktop PCs into shared desks to hide those messy, unattractive cables.

You Can Be Egalitarian

For many companies, equality and fairness are important aspects of their ethos. Some even decide to have no closed-off rooms for managers, opting instead for an entirely open plan layout that promotes a team ethic.

It is essential that your company ethos is reflected in your office interiors, so it could suit you if you want to create a communal vibe.

Companies are becoming more aware of the importance of establishing a workplace culture (just take a look at Google’s incredible headquarters), as this can boost brand development, attract bright new talent and impress visiting clients.

Open Communication

With employees sitting in close proximity, this can create a more social office culture. This can be very beneficial for businesses with creative teams, as sitting on communal desks can foster a flow of ideas.

Shared desks are not the only way to encourage people to interact, however. You can also facilitate open communication by introducing contemporary office furniture solutions such as additional standing desks or sofas. Standing desks are perfect for hot-desking, while sofas offer a more relaxed environment that encourages people to chat.

The Cons Of An Open Plan Office

Lack Of Privacy

Open plan offices are not good in terms of privacy, and this can have a negative impact on the entire team.

Privacy is important when meetings are taking place, as you will potentially be discussing confidential information.

Holding meetings in the hub of the busy workplace could give rise to legal or ethical issues, so consulting an office fit out contractor to introduce secluded rooms is a safer alternative.

More Noise And Distractions

If you want your team to bounce ideas off one other, then shared desks can provide the perfect setting. However, a 2013 study proved that the benefits of increased collaboration are often undermined by noise and unwanted distractions.

If you notice that some employees have put their headphones in, this a sign that the open plan office is having the opposite effect of what was intended. After all, it is unlikely that people listening to headphones will be contributing to the flow of ideas.

Employee Wellbeing Can Be Affected

A recent study found that open plan offices had a negative impact on productivity due to higher levels of stress. Stress can result in staff taking time off, or may prevent them from working as efficiently as they would like.

There are ways to reduce stress without knocking down the walls and starting again, however. An office refurbishment, for example, is a great way to boost morale and create a more relaxing environment.

This year many companies are adopting the calming biophillic design. The idea of this design is to bring the outside in with walls of foliage, plants, artificial grass and a green colour scheme.

The Perfect Compromise?

As a compromise, more companies are introducing ‘work zones’, which offer a greater balance between private and collaborative work. For example, the more collaborative working areas would be an office breakout area, whilst zones designated to privacy would be in cubicle areas or pods.

Every individual is different, and this should be taken into account if you are to optimise your working environment. With work zones, employees get to choose how they want to work, which is great for productivity.

Rap interiors is an award winning office fit out company with over 25 years of experience. From office refurbishments to furniture, we provide innovative design solutions to match your company ethos. To arrange a consultation, contact us today on 0333 600 1234 or email