Closed versus open plan offices – which one would benefit you?

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Are you ready to hang out with your work mates every day, all day? Or are you missing your office pod or cubicle even when home at night? It is safe to say that there is no haircut, no fashion design and no office layout type that suits all people equally. And that is why we want to find out which office layout would support the happiness and the productivity of your team the most.

What is in a name: closed office vs open plan

Closed offices are also called enclosed offices or private offices. In this type of a layout, private cabinets, cubicles and panels are used to give everyone a physical and a mental separation from the team members around them. This often comes with a better chance to focus.

Open plan offices, on the other hand, are spaces where highly personal areas are kept to a minimum. That does not automatically mean that an open plan office comes down to one massive room with loads of tables in it. Open plan offices can still have meeting pods or assigned places. Low-level cubicle designs are not a rare occurrence either. Open offices are often seen as great tools for cooperation but also disliked for providing too many distractions.

That sweet sound of an undisturbed headspace

When trying to decide on an office layout type, you want to make sure that it supports the productivity of the people and heightens the work flow within your teams.

A closed office layout comes with the following advantages:

  • More privacy for everyone

  • Fewer distractions from the outside

  • A better environment to focus in

Sounds exactly what you are after, doesn’t it? However, there are some disadvantages as well:

  • Less communication within the team

  • Hinders supervision and team building

  • They are expensive to build and take up loads of space

A gateway to organic synergy

Open plan offices are more social environments than their closed relatives. They are often found in places that facilitate creativity and innovation since their advantages include:

  • Keeping the channels of communication flowing

  • Enhancing collaboration and team spirit (= productivity)

  • They are flexible to accommodate extra capacity

Since open plan office layouts tend to eliminate private spaces, they come with a high sociability aspect which does not automatically enhance the optimal performance of all the people in the team. As a matter of fact, it might even make focusing very challenging for the more introverted amongst us.

The other downsides to open offices are:

  • The chaotic feel with too many people in the room

  • Too much distraction from noise

  • Germs and viruses spreading as happily as… germs and viruses

Is noise really bad?

Every place is energy. If your company or a large a part of your strategy relies on teams collaborating, on fresh ideas getting sparked and on junior and senior employees constantly mixing or joining forces, an open environment could offer an array of benefits to directly support that goal. But interaction between the teams is exactly what it says in the name: interaction. And communication means noise. And noise?

Is one of the greatest productivity killers in open offices. There are famous stories of employees quitting jobs because they could not concentrate or because their role in the team required privacy at least once a day. Imagine how many people would have been a lot happier and a lot more productive if their office had had just one office phone booth or a privacy pod? Silence can really make a difference.

How to focus without sacrificing team spirit?

We believe it is possible to focus (without sacrificing anything of importance!) by keeping the following principle in mind: all projects have different needs throughout their life span. For example, it is usually quicker and easier to come up with ideas in teams but the implementation phase or even the very next step in the process can easily benefit from a time spent in a privacy pod.

The good news is that many architects who have designed prominent corporate offices are saying that the most effective open plans include a good number of meeting pods, office phone booths and private areas for deep concentration. So by keeping an eye on at which stage the project is and who in the team needs to focus the most, you can have everyone flourish at the same time.

The perfect balance between productivity and collaboration

At the end of the day, the productivity of your employees will determine not only the atmosphere in your office but also the success of your business. The most important element which determines that productivity is the ability to work. And to focus.

All great teams are put together from different people, each of them bringing their unique thinking and skill sets to the table. And not all of their requirements can be met by one specific design. While some employees thrive in open offices, some will always work a lot better in more private spaces and meeting pods, so finding that perfect balance between productivity and collaboration might just hold the key to making life a lot happier for everyone.