What Is An Open Plan Office?
We say an office is ‘open plan’ when the majority of the working space is configured with large, communal work areas such as desk banks or wide tables. Most open plan offices do have smaller spaces such as meeting rooms, or a few private offices for senior staff, but for the most part, employees are all seated together in one room. The idea behind this layout is to promote collaboration, networking and innovation.
A well-planned open-plan office has been designed specifically to allow easy communication, with no cubicles or partitions; but often this means that private working is nigh on impossible. Companies that value creativity and collaboration will benefit from this working layout, but for many workers, having a quiet place in which to think and concentrate is just as important.
Some offices will assign desks to each individual, but these days, many businesses employ the ‘hot desking’ policy, where the choice of desks is first-come-first-served on a daily basis. This policy is designed to keep personal items in the office to a minimum and 'share the wealth’ when it comes to the best seats in the house; in reality, it often means employees will arrive early to work in the hopes of getting a quieter placement (or in some cases, a desk at all rather than a perch in the reception or cafeteria). Positive on the surface, right? But this situation often leads to employee dissatisfaction, feeling as though they are being forced to work longer hours simply to find a decent place to work.
Advantages of Open Plan Offices
The main advantage of an open plan office layout when it comes to your workforce is the surge of teamwork and innovation that often comes with it. This is particularly effective when teams are seated together on their own bank of desks. This creates a collabothat prative environment for articular team where there is no hierarchy; ensuring that all members of the team have an opportunity to contribute to decision making. Seating people together not only boosts communication but also learning, idea-generating and networking, as well as employee management.
For many businesses, open-plan offices are a preferred layout method due to the smaller upfront cost for furnishing them. Having an open office reduces the costs of construction, utilities, and office equipment as everything is shared.
Disadvantages of Open Plan Offices
Noise is unquestionably the biggest disadvantage to an open plan office layout. With multiple employees in a single, large space with no panels, office partitions or dividers between them, noise will bounce around the room easily. Most offices tend to have minimal soft furnishings, too, which increases the reverberation possibilities and means that often, open plan offices are incredibly noisy and distracting places.
Some people thrive in bustling, busy work environments where teamwork and collaboration are key to their performance. For those people, open plan offices are workplaces in which they can excel. However, the majority of people in fact tend to perform better in quieter, more individual spaces where they can work privately in peace. Most open plan offices can appear messy, as everybody’s work and possessions are on their desks for everyone to see clearly. These more chaotic, untidy spaces can be particularly challenging for introverts, people who need a highly organised space in order to function efficiently, or those with learning disabilities or disorders such as ADHD or Autism.
Furthermore, in an age where for the past year we have been dealing with the first modern global pandemic, open plan offices are hotspots for spreading sickness. Have you noticed that winter bugs such as flu or norovirus spread like wildfire around your open plan office? Collaborative working spaces are notorious for allowing illness to spread through your workforce at a much faster rate than a workplace with cubicles or individual offices.
Make Open Plan Work For Everyone In Your Business
So how do you make your office space work for all your employees? Investing wisely in a collection of office screens and partitions can help you keep the best bits of the open plan layout while providing a productive and pleasant work environment for all your employees. There are many different styles of office screen to choose from; each serving a different function within a workplace.
- Desk Dividers: Desk divider screens are designed to stand or be fixed to a traditional desktop. They are available as fabric screens, acoustic partitions and acrylic or glass dividers. Setting up a series of desk dividers on large desk banks can give your employees a little more privacy (and peace and quiet!) without going to the expense of installing individual cubicles.
- Folding Screens: Investing in a series of folding screens is a flexible and practical option for dividing up your open-plan office. Easy to store away in a corner or cupboard when you aren’t using them, these screens can be rolled out to wherever you need them for segmenting up the space into smaller working ‘zones’. Perfect for when you need occasionally divided spaces but not a permanent solution.
- Acoustic Partitions: Combating noise is one of the easiest ways to make your office feel quieter and more productive while retaining the open plan feel. Installing a range of acoustic partitions throughout your office helps to minimise the reverberation of sound through the space, minimising echoes and reducing noise pollution. From desk dividers to freestanding screens and even curved partitions and pods, our range of acoustic screens has everything you need for a quieter and more productive workplace.
- Perspex® Panels: One of the fundamentals of productivity is having a happy, healthy workforce that is well enough to come to work! As we’ve seen while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, open plan spaces with minimal dividers or segmentation are a breeding ground for sickness. We’ve all been drilled about social distancing measures in almost every aspect of our lives since the arrival of Coronavirus in early 2020, but as we move into reopening offices across the country, keeping some of these measures in place, such as social distancing screens in offices, will not only protect your employees from Covid but also other seasonal illnesses, maintaining a healthy and hygienic workplace for a happy and productive workplace.
For more information on any of our office screen options (including social distancing screens), or to talk to one of our experts on setting up your open plan office with panel furnishings, please get in touch with our team via our Contact Us page or on 01234 676767.