Open Workspaces: a Creative and Fresh Approach, or a Loud and Unproductive Mess?

Wide open spaces aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in the office, a new survey of workers shows. Employees polled by staffing firm Robert Half said open floor plans are among the least productive and most stressful work environments.

Yet they are becoming more popular, Half said.

The majority (56 percent) of human resources (HR) managers whose companies have changed their workspaces in recent years said their companies moved to an open floor plan to enhance collaboration.

“Office design should not be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “Companies considering a change should create a layout that brings out their team’s best performance. Frequently, the optimal office setup includes a mix of private workspaces and meeting areas for collaboration.”

Robert Half identifies pros and cons of different workspace configurations:

Private offices

Pros: Employees and management can make business and personal phone calls, hold meetings or have private conversations without being seen or heard by other staff members.

Cons: They’re expensive and require more space to implement. Workers who close their doors can seem unapproachable.

Private cubicles

Pros: They provide some privacy.

Cons: Outside discussions can be distracting, and employees worried about disrupting others might avoid conversations, prohibiting collaboration.

Semi-private cubicles

Pros: Professionals can see each other, making it easier to have spontaneous conversations. This option offers an open floor plan feel, but also allows workers to feel ownership of their space.

Cons: Impromptu conversations can be disruptive to nearby workers trying to focus.

Open floor plan

Pros: This option saves on overhead costs, and is best for roles, departments or industries that require a high level of collaboration.

Cons: It’s not ideal for introverted personalities or those who require a quiet space for concentration. It also lacks private spaces for confidential discussions.

Combination of private and open spaces

Pros: It isn’t as disruptive as other types of configurations, and allows for employees to gather in common areas.

Cons: It’s more expensive to implement and can take more time to design this type of space.

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