In the landscape of office design, there is much debate about open plan vs. standard cubicles. Many were quick to announce the triumph of open floor plan and declare traditional offices, that have been around since 1967, completely obsolete. Tech companies and giants like Google were early adopters and they still swear by this innovative layout. Consequently, many other organizations are reorganizing their premises, as they see cubicles as impersonal, cramped, and impractical.
It seems that the open office plan is perceived as the new norm, a perfect formula for workplace synergy, which facilitates lively collaboration and interaction. Barriers between people are torn down and nothing stands in the way of knowledge and idea sharing anymore. Along the similar lines, flexible workspaces are spreading around the world and communal areas grow in importance. So, are traditional offices really dead?
Well, I am afraid that the answer is not as cut and dried as some would like to portray. It is true that they are slowly disappearing from work environments. We see less and less of them across industry sectors. At the same time, it is estimated that in the U.S, 70% of offices have low or no dividing walls. Still, cubicles are here to stay and the case could be made that they still form the backbone of modern office space.
But, let us move on to advantages of the pen office. In a nutshell, open office plan maximizes floor space and reduces furniture overhead. Some open spaces do not even feature permanent workstations. Everything is mobile, flexible, and multi-purpose. Modular and bench-like systems enable different arrangements and setups. Tables usually accommodate multiple workers, who are free to use the space as they please and see fit.
Furthermore, high-quality panels and a range of movable components ensure that they can work both standing and sitting. Storage closets sometimes double as conference rooms while chill out areas serve as impromptu meeting places. Personal desks, the mainstay of cubicles, are not a common sight anymore. Modern, sleek, and high-grade furniture is in the spotlight.
When the worlds collide
Namely, as a human-oriented space, an open office supports not only worker’s habits, but also their health and well-being. That is why it embraces ergonomics. Employees are blessed by adjustable chairs that alleviate problems such as back and neck pain. What many people overlook, though, is that these pieces can fit into cubicles just fine.
It is also interesting that some furniture companies launch lines of products designed to feel like a living space. This brings us to the point that home and office trends converge and some would even say that the future of workspace is the blend of the two worlds. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that many furniture suppliers strive to stay away from the dispute and create products for either type of the environment.
For now, we can see that more and more people work from home or remotely, so they seek dedicated work spaces and quality furniture. In is not uncommon to see a freelance web designer, online tuition teacher, internet marketer or other profession doing expensive remolding projects and tearing down walls. People also pay a pretty penny for fine office furniture. On the other hand, as we have indicated, home-like furniture is finding its way into corporate environments.
Not everything in the garden is rosy
The main problem with an open plan is privacy. It is a legitimate concern because the lack of private offices and conference rooms can lead to people getting distracted by the noise and commotion. Close proximity to other workers is not something that everyone fancies. Namely, by removing the walls, you actually increase the density of people and bring down the operating costs.
The benefits of rising profit levels spill over to the furniture industry, which grew by 2% in 2016. This upward trajectory is expected to continue in 2017 and beyond. Alas, the fact that the open office plan can create workplace dysfunction still remains and that is why there are numerous businesses that are not jumping on the bandwagon. Hence, open offices may be the present of workspaces, but the future is still obfuscated.
Getting down to business
Throughout the business realm, there is a clear shift towards more open spaces. However, open plan is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It works for some companies and industries, but for others, it does more harm than good. Therefore, every organization should take into accounts its culture and specific needs and then shape the office space accordingly. So, it seems back to focus on the basics: It all comes down to getting the work done, one way or the other.
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