Open Plan or Smart Offices – Time for a Rethink

Open plan offices have become the norm in the UK in the last couple of decades. In the past, closed offices dominated. These days, the democratic feel of an opened up space is the preferred layout in most organisations.

However, not everything about an open plan office is desirable. What are the positives (and negatives) of turning an office space into an open one? And what exactly is a more flexible office – the so-called smart office?

Advantages of Open Plan Offices

Open plan offices foster a culture of communication and collaboration. Bosses work alongside junior team members. In particular, innovation-based businesses were early adopters of open plan. It helps with teamwork and staff cohesion.

In business cultures like these, good ideas can come from anybody in the company hierarchy. An open plan office certainly helps to level the hierarchy between senior staff and other staff. This allows for more voices to be heard.

In short, they are great for building team-focussed cultures as opposed to top-down ones.

Another key advantage of the open plan office is that it can improve the flow of information. For example order enquiries, order processing, purchasing, logistics and post-sale after care can be handled in one place. This offers a simple sequence within a business structure.

In an open plan office dedicated teams can still handle each phase. They  are close enough to one another to pass information on. Either formally or informally. This can help weed out potential problems before they arise.

Chiefly, this is all done to promote a greater frequency of interaction between employees due to their physical proximity.

An open plan office also means that lighting and heating costs can be shared within a single space, so they tend to be money savers, too.

Disadvantages of Open Plan Offices

Despite the key advantages of open plan offices, there are downsides to consider, too.

For example, they can be busy and sometimes noisy environments. Some staff complain that they suffer from a certain loss of concentration.

With so many verbal and visual interactions between employees, too much communication can be a problem. This causes distractions and loss of productivity.

Background noise, generated by an open plan office, can mean that customers receive a less than professional service. One or other on the call may become distracted.

As well as the distracting side of open plan offices, there is a problem with privacy.

Staff and managers need to communicate in confidential ways sometimes. This can’t always be easy to achieve in a shared environment. Equally, commercially sensitive data needs to be handled privately. This can lead to problems of security if the office is too open.

Productivity can also suffer because germs are spread more easily between staff members in a shared space. This can lead to more time being taken off work for health reasons.

Finally, open plan offices may feel more democratic. But there is often no differentiation between senior members of staff and those lower in the hierarchy. Ironically, high-flyers can end up feeling undervalued and therefore choose to leave for a new opportunity. They miss being surrounded by the trappings of success.

Introducing the Smart Office

Woman On Phone In Busy Modern OfficeThe open plan office is evolving to meet the demands of modern businesses. Such offices take the best of open planned spaces and mitigate for their many disadvantages. Hot desking and smartphone connectivity are now favoured. In today’s offices,  mixed use spaces provides the best of both worlds.

These include open plan areas for collaborative working.  Cubicles and meeting rooms are useful for private talks or work that requires calmness, concentration and a contemplative approach.

In summary, the key to the so-called smart office is flexibility. Ultimately, this means being able to evolve rapidly to suit changing business needs.

And, that’s one thing that Flexspace is good at – meeting the needs of the modern business. So give us a call on 0800 033 4444 and let’s see whether we can form the perfect Smart Office around you and your colleagues.

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