When you picture an upscale office space, you probably imagine large rooms filled with trendy desks and a host of busy workers. An open layout without traditional office rooms has rocketed to the forefront of office design. This organizational scheme is meant to encourage collaboration and spark creativity among employees as well as keep office costs low.
If you’re upgrading your office furniture, it may seem natural to adopt this modern layout. However, an open office layout may not support productivity and workflow within every business. To help determine if an open office layout might be a good fit for your employees, take a look at the advantages and disadvantages this setup offers.
Advantages of an Open Office Layout
Your budget, number of employees, type of work and physical space all play a role in the way you utilize your office. An open office offers several key advantages, including:
Economical: Businesses that face high rent may favor a cost-effective furniture solution like the open office plan to help save money. Filling an office with long, multi-person work tables costs less than investing in cubicles or outfitting individual offices. For many businesses, this is an economical and worthwhile solution for both the budget and employees.
Flexible: One of the biggest advantages of an open office layout is its flexibility. An open office can ebb and flow based on your employee’s projects and needs. If the layout requires adjusting, you can easily rearrange the desks to fit. If an employee leaves, there isn’t an entire empty room that has to be filled. Some businesses even use an open office concept without assigned desks so employees can sit and work wherever they’d like. However your facility utilizes it, the open office concept affords much greater flexibility than stationary cubicles or offices.
Collaborative: When employees sit in close proximity to one another, they can collaborate and coordinate projects with ease. This is especially helpful in industries where collaboration is essential, including software development, marketing and social media, event coordination, logistics, graphic design, journalism and more. Collaborative workspaces can help streamline work and cut down on emails for maximum efficiency and productivity.
Manageable: In an open office layout, employees have increased access to managers and vice versa. This can stimulate more communication between managers and employees and make it easier for managers to help and serve the office. Some businesses even use an open office plan to opt for more transparency between employees and executives with clear glass offices or completely open spaces.
Culture-positive: Employee camaraderie is essential for a healthy and productive work culture. Open office space can offer more areas where employees can interact and share ideas, which can contribute to a thriving work culture.
It’s true that open offices offer a lot of employee and employer benefits. But before you dive into the open office trend, consider some of the challenges you may face and how you might address them.
Disadvantages of an Open Office Layout
When you bring a large number of people together under one roof, it’s nearly impossible to craft the perfect work environment. Everyone has different tasks to complete and different work preferences that can make it difficult to find a satisfying midpoint. Like any layout design, the open office offers a few challenges that employees and employers must navigate together:
Office noise: Open offices face increased noise without walls and doors to act as sound barriers. Employees may find it difficult to block out noise from nearby conversations and machinery, which may inhibit distraction-free working. One study on acoustics in open office plans found that 70 percent of respondents believed their productivity would increase if their office space was quieter, and 54 percent said office noise frequently bothered them.
Loss of privacy: Open office spaces put each employee’s computer screen, desk and belongings into a public space. While this may hold employees accountable for completing sufficient work, it is an unmistakable loss in personal privacy. This may not seem like a huge deal, but a lack of privacy can adversely affect an employee’s engagement, performance and job satisfaction. Businesses that adopt an open office plan should consider ways to preserve privacy within their environment.
Decreased productivity: In a space where audio and visual distractions are common, employee productivity may suffer. One report found that individuals made twice as many errors after interruptions as short a 2.8 seconds. Finding ways to enable employees to work without distractions is a key issue in an open office plan.
Health concerns: A communal setup could pose an increased health threat when employees become sick. Without the protection and “quarantine” of an individual office, employees may pass and catch germs at a higher rate. One study found a 62 percent increase in sick day usage when an office switched to an open layout. It is essential to educate employees and provide ways to prevent the spread of germs and reduce downtime.
It’s important to note that many of these disadvantages can be addressed through thoughtful design, high-quality furniture and employee training.
How to Make Open Office Designs Successful
The idea of an open office plan is simple — put long desks with enough seats for your employees into an open space. However, a successful open office takes careful planning and precision. Here are some tried and true open office layout ideas to create the best space for your employees.
1. Group Employees Logically
One of the keys to success in an open office is grouping employee desks based on their jobs. This is beneficial on both the individual and departmental levels. Those who work in the same department likely rely on interactions with other department members to complete their jobs. It’s also likely that certain departments regularly interact with other departments. For example, a marketing team will work closely within their department, but they will also regularly work alongside graphic designers and writers.
As you plan your open office, it’s helpful to account for these inter-departmental exchanges. However, it may not be the most beneficial to put interrelated departments right next to each other. This may seem convenient, but it may also lead to more interruptions. Craft a logical flow with overlap between departments to ensure workers won’t have to walk long distances to collaborate, but will also have the option to return to their desk and work undisturbed.
2. Design Different Work Zones
Though long desks in a large room are economical for employers, they don’t always encourage high levels of undistracted work. This can be frustrating for both employees and employers who are vying to produce high-quality work in a competitive industry. One answer to this predicament is open office work zones.
Zones provide order and create different work environments within your open space. Here are some common zones you might consider adding:
Desk zone: This typically encompasses long desks where employees have their computers and work supplies. The desk zone serves as each employee’s designated space and may experience moderate levels of noise.
Collaboration zone: One way to reduce noise in the desk zone is to designate collaboration zones. These are areas with tables where people can have meetings, discussions and brainstorming sessions. It’s a good idea to station collaboration zones in a place where they won’t interrupt those working at their desks.
Quiet zone: A quiet zone is a separate area designed for undistracted work. Employees can come to quiet zones when they need to focus and avoid distractions. A quiet zone may be a separate room, different seating or an area closed off with partitions. It may even be worthwhile to post simple rules for the quiet zone to ensure the space can preserve its distraction-free nature.
Gathering zone: The goal of a gathering zone is to give employees a designated space to be loud and gather without worrying about disrupting others. This may be a break room, kitchen or open seating area. Whatever the case, adding a gathering zone for employees may encourage conversation and fellowship in areas where it won’t disrupt vital work.
3. Explore Open Office Privacy Solutions
One of the sacrifices an open office plan makes is individual employee privacy. There are no office doors or walls to give employees a sense of separateness, which can have negative effects.
A lack of privacy manifests issues in two different areas:
Psychological privacy issues: Employee privacy is rooted in feeling an innate sense of trust and security in the workplace. Privacy allows employees to create healthy boundaries, control their interactions, assert their rights and protect themselves. When employees aren’t able to achieve some sense of privacy, they may feel frustrated and undervalued. They may also struggle to work as productively.
Security privacy issues: Certain departments like human resources require a high level of confidentiality. Depending on the industry, there may be laws in place about how employee or client information is discussed and handled. For these departments, privacy is an essential factor for successful performance and compliance.
Clearly, employee privacy is important to consider within your open office plan. But how do you address this subjective concept practically? Here are some tips to help incorporate privacy into your design:
Provide breakout rooms: Specific rooms where employees can have confidential meetings or conversations are both practical and beneficial. Employees can choose to utilize these spaces to maintain privacy and compliance.
Utilize partitions: Depending on your office furniture, you may be able to incorporate partitions between your open desks. Though they may seem insignificant, even small partitions can create a sense of separation and privacy. It may also be beneficial to incorporate taller partitions between work zones — especially around departments that complete confidential work.
Consider desk spacing: Giving employees more space between desks and departments can allow for a greater sense of privacy. As you plan your open office layout, focus on providing adequate space for each zone instead of forcing as many desks into an area as possible.
4. Consider Structural Noise Solutions
Noise level is a significant concern in an open office. Without any acoustical barriers, a conversation can be heard up to 50 to 70 feet away. Sound-blocking measures can reduce this distance to 25 to 35 feet, but this is still a concerning reach. If not addressed, noise can impair your employee’s workflow and cause increased frustration. Fortunately, there are a variety of noise-reducing solutions to consider:
Ceilings: The material used in your office ceiling can improve the way noise travels. The Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) recommends selecting a material with a high noise reduction coefficient (NRC) and a moderate ceiling attenuation class (CAC). These ratings help reduce noise and prevent it from traveling throughout your workspace.
Fixtures: In addition to ceiling measures, sound-absorbing fixtures help control noise levels and reverberation. Also known as acoustic clouds, these fixtures hang from the ceiling and look like a form of decoration. If your office space has an exposed ceiling, acoustic clouds could help deaden sound without disrupting the design aesthetic.
Flooring: Adding carpet or rugs to your open office can help absorb sound and add to your interior design. Look for a carpet with a high NRC to help prevent sound transmission between floors and rooms.
Why Trust Arnold’s to Help Design Your Open Office Layout
When you’re planning or revamping your open office space, fine-tuned details can make a world of difference. At Arnold’s Office Furniture, we have products and experience to bring your office plan to life. As an Arnold’s customer, you can expect some amazing benefits, including:
As the only Sunline dealer in the country, Arnold’s offers exclusive office furniture you’ll love. Sunline’s low-cost, high-quality products are customizable and stunning in any office setting. No matter how you want to furnish your open office, Arnold’s has a product to match. Our benching and desking systems incorporate partitions for vital employee privacy while preserving the efficiency of long desks. Quad desk or workstation options provide a cubicle-like division of desks and privacy with a thoroughly open office feel. We even have modular standing desks to give your employees optimal working flexibility.
Desks aren’t the only products we offer, either. Arnold’s has a selection of affordable modern furniture that is perfect for gathering spaces, conference rooms and more. Shop our lounge furniture, conference tables and office chairs to add the finishing touches to your office design.
Free Open Office Layout Design
When you select furniture from our inventory, Arnold’s commits to partnering with you to create your office space. Our expert designers will provide free workspace layout plans to help you put your furniture to the best use possible.
The advantages of this service include:
Maximum space efficiency.
Less planning hassle.
Expert knowledge on minimizing the drawbacks of an open office.
Aesthetically-pleasing design and layout.
Achieve Your Open Office Goals With Arnold’s Office Furniture
Your open office space has the potential to be an effective, work-enhancing environment. But without the right furniture and design, it could be just the opposite. Arnold’s Office Furniture is equipped and eager to handle your furnishing and design needs, so you can enjoy your workspace while remaining focused on work.
Our Sunline products are perfect for the modern business looking for function, affordability and style. While you decide between different styles, colors and sizes, our staff can answer your questions to help you make an informed decision. You deserve an office layout designed specifically for your space and employees.
Alissa has over 25 years of experience in the office furniture industry. For many of those years, Alissa was a Senior Interior Designer. She then took her love of design and working with customers to the sales realm and has been dedicating her knowledge there ever since. Learn more about Alissa!