Comparing best work space

Open plan or conventional office space?

open officeOpen plan offices may look nice but can have a detrimental effect

Open plan offices are aesthetically pleasing, especially when potential clients can see the entire workforce progressing together. But what if we told you that an open-plan office has a more detrimental impact on a business — with employees not performing as well as those working in conventional office spaces?

United Carlton, experts in print management software, has looked at the statistics that surround this issue and how businesses can change their office spaces to ensure better productivity within the workplace.

The harsh reality

Open-plan offices were originally introduced to help businesses financially, as fewer walls meant lower costs for materials and less chance of additional repairs. Open spaces also led to employees using the same equipment — in traditional offices, each space would have its own printer, fax machine and any other type of equipment, whereas an open-plan office allows employees to share the equipment and use it at their own disposal, which again encourages businesses to save costs.

Now, an open-plan office is said to encourage the exchange of creativity — allowing ideas that will benefit the business to bounce from one person to another. It’s said that it will help employees become more sociable, encouraging conversation across the floor as well as making the working environment a happy one — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s been found by Karlstad University in Sweden, that those who work in an open-plan office display lower job satisfaction and seem to be more miserable compared to those working in traditional offices. But why is this?

Surely the arguments above suggest that working in a close-knit environment can be good for our creativity and our overall work ethic?

Why open-plan offices are a disadvantage for the workforce

Although an open-plan space can be nice sometimes, being able to interact with anyone at any given time, it can be a huge distraction for both yourself and the person you’re trying to talk to. What we need to remember, is that everyone is different, we all go deep into ‘work-mode’ at different times and when we get easily distracted by others close by, it can impact our train of thought and lose the focus we had before that unwelcome interaction.

The thing about open-plan office spaces is that we don’t have control over the environment, and constant distractions can irritate us. An open-plan office immediately screams “laid-back workplace”, and has become popular amongst young businesses starting out. In some cases, pets are able to roam the floor causing an even greater distraction.

One of the most frustrating things that open-plan office workers will experience is the frequency of impromptu meetings. This can eradicate an entire day’s schedule, which can then cause someone to fall behind on their work — again disrupting the work pattern that they had prepared to get through without interference.

A common element in an open-plan office is music being played throughout the area — which can be a significant distraction for workers, especially when they are trying to concentrate on a specific task. It’s all down to personal preference, and believe it or not, not everybody likes the same music — this becomes a problem when the office playlist has an open-request system.

One way that open-space offices are battling this problem is by making sure that the music being played is in fact ‘background music’ and is not being propelled loudly across the office so that it isn’t loud enough to affect your productivity.

As there is very little privacy within an open-plan office, employees feel as though they are being watched and this then leads to less risks being taken — removing the aspect of innovation when it comes to generating ideas for clients.

More people admit that they would feel uncomfortable doing certain things in front of colleagues, especially in a big business where you might not know everyone. However, they would feel more inclined to be creative in a private space. If this was enabled, it could improve the business, helping employees advance within their own role and make better decisions to ensure greater results.

Tompkins, an architectural firm, has said that businesses that create an open-office space start out very enthusiastic about the prospect, but after six months “a good 50 per cent” call back to change their office space and make some areas more private.

According to research carried out internationally by IPSOS and the Workspace Futures Team of Steelcase, 85% of people are dissatisfied with their working conditions and find it difficult to concentrate on their work. 95% of people said that working in a private space was important to them, and would help determine a better work pace — only 41% of these people said that they were able to do this in their current workplace, with open-plan offices making it hard to achieve.

Unbelievably, 31% of these people said that they had to leave the office in order to get their work done — is this something that business owners should be proud of? This could cause a lot of stress regarding a work-life balance.

Another report which surveyed over 10,000 workers found that those working in an office are losing 86 minutes of their day due to distractions within the workplace — causing them to be unmotivated and stressed about the tasks they need to complete within a shorter amount of time due to their loss. They feel as though they are unable to work creatively and think constructively due to the environment they are in.

It’s important to get the work and social balance right within your business, you don’t want to incur bad productivity amongst staff members due to the layout of your office space, which could have a continuous impact against your clients. Throughout the 2016/17 period, 46% of the 25.7 million days lost at work were due to stress, depression and anxiety, which highlights that it is a real issue within the workplace.


This article is supplied under the terms of the DB Direct service

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