Why Open Office Plans Only Work Some of the Time

Aesthetically, they look marvellous. Walking into a bright, open office space buzzing with activity feels truly modern. Forget the stuffy, dark offices and cramped cubicles of the past – these spaces welcome an inviting new era. Instead of having physical barriers, the spaces invite human interaction and collaboration.
With that being said, not everyone is thrilled about this contemporary take. For those that value privacy, an open office plan is a nightmare. Not only are there no dividers between desks, but individuals are privy to distractions from all around them.

Even worse, the new layout might make some employees feel somewhat slighted by their employer. It’s no secret that managers may find it easier to watch over staff in an open setting and no one likes to feel like they’re under constant surveillance. What’s more, they may feel like they’ve had their unique, private sanctuary taken from them. Some people view offices as privileges and removing them feels like a punishment.

Of course, there are scenarios where an open space makes a great deal of sense. In highly collaborative settings, where information is constantly shared among colleagues, this environment may be a welcome change. Sending countless emails, or simply having to leave one’s office to communicate, may slow a business down. In this case, staff may relish the ease of conversation afforded by the new layout.

Choice in the Workplace

While it may not always be feasible, allowing employees to choose where they work may benefit both parties. For the individual, they’ll appreciate having an arrangement that suits their personality or schedule. In turn, the staff are much more productive, as they are able to manage their time effectively. For the employer, allowing staff to work from home will reduce costs, as they won’t have to pay to have them in the office. Furthermore, they won’t have as many people taking leaves of absence due to insurmountable stress. In turn, they are able to enhance employee morale and therefore reduce employee turnover.

With that being said, not all employers embrace these types of working arrangements. There will be times, of course, when it simply doesn’t make sense to allow people to work from home or on a different schedule; however, there are just as many instances where a flexible arrangement is ideal. Oftentimes, managers feel that allowing employees freedom will result in problematic behaviour. They fail to realize that many individuals are just as adept at evading responsibility in the workplace as they would be elsewhere. They may act busy while they are actually mindlessly surfing the internet. In contrast, someone at home may, in fact, work harder because they feel like they are under more pressure to produce quality work.

In all, employers need to approach working conditions with an open mind. What works for some won’t work for others, and workplaces are as unique as the individuals that work within them.

Allowing employees freedom isn’t a recipe for disaster, but removing the conditions that empower them won’t cultivate success.