You’re probably familiar with the cliched layout of the stereotypical office—the cubicles, the neutral colors, the boss’ office at the front or perhaps off to the side of the room. And you’re probably also familiar with some of the criticisms of this tried-and-true office layout—how the sheer monotony of it can stifle creativity, suppress collaboration, and even diminish morale.
You may also know something about the more contemporary office design choices that businesses can make—exemplified by companies like Google and Facebook. These more “open” office designs eschew more traditional work spaces in favor of a configuration that lends itself to open dialogue, free-flowing communication, and easy collaboration.
What is Open Office Design, Exactly?
To be more specific, an open office design is any layout that favors large, open areas over smaller, segmented offices. Basically, if your workplace has a bunch of private offices or cubicles, that’s not open design. But if you have big areas where all your employees can chat and work together freely, then you’re making use of this community-building, team-adhering workplace structure.
Note that open office design is by no means a new fad. It’s been around for a while now, but thanks to companies like Google, it’s becoming more and more common. You may even consider renting small warehouse space as opposed to traditional office space to secure an interesting location and cut costs. In fact, you may be wondering if it’s a logical choice for your workplace—but how can you know for sure?
Deciding About Open Office Design
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Open office design is good for you or some companies, not so good for others. The big advantage, of course, is how open office design breaks down silos and allows teams to really be connected to one another — something that may inspire more creative and collaborative work.
As such, open office design is great if:
- You want to encourage more casual encounters between your team members;
- You want to save costs on utilities and security;
- You’re aiming to attract a younger workforce that values openness and a collegiate atmosphere; or
- You feel that your current, silo-ed office space is inefficient or ineffective.
Open office design is not right for all companies, though — including:
- Companies where employees really need a high level of focus to ensure precision and quality—think engineers and architects;
- Companies where employees regularly have sensitive or discreet conversations with clients;
- Companies where employees are constantly on the phone and may be disrupted by background noise.
It’s worth balancing these pros and cons as you seek to determine whether open office design is right for you; this is a big decision, and one that could have a massive effect on your team’s engagement and productivity.