Breaking Down the Pros & Cons of Open Office Culture

Is your office considering changing to an open office? Studies have found that changing the office set up can drastically change the culture within the workplace. Approximately 70 percent of offices in the United States have no or low partitions according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the walls in the office, with Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs, and American Express following suit.

A typical open office will include:

  • Seating clusters for collaboration and sitting work stations
  • Separate open spaces, such as a café for coffee breaks and meals, and a laboratory area with white boards, sofas, and worktables
  • Closed-off spaces for quiet tasks and meetings, such as a sound-free library space and conference rooms with glass walls for semi-privacy
  • Some open offices are combination of open space and private offices, which can be a good compromise for those unsure about a drastic change

As with any change, there are many pros and cons. A few of these pros are:

  • An office without walls for individual offices is more cost effective and flexible with available space
  • Open areas are more feasible for employee expansion
  • Increased natural lighting from the open space, and almost everyone has a view of a window
  • Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness
  • Increased communication and a higher likelihood of chance meetings

Open offices can also have their cons:

  • For those that are used to a quiet, private office, the increased interaction with colleges can be detrimental to performance
  • Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy
  • The increased noise from phone calls and casual conversations impedes their ability to concentrate and focus
  • Germs spread more readily and workers are more likely to get sick
  • The lack of privacy to work or take calls increases stress and reduces morale.