Cubicles and blocked off private offices have quickly become pushed out of modern offices. Open layouts and shared work spaces are much more common in today’s corporate environment. This style is found especially in younger companies. Without walls and desk barriers, an open work space gives employees the opportunity to collaborate with flexibility but can also cause new stress and distractions.
Offices have begun to incorporate this open layout in the hopes of creating an appealing, “Silcon Valley” style culture. By taking this approach and adding bench style seating and forming more shared space, companies are looking to increase collaboration between employees (both socially and work related) and the sense that it balances the office hierarchy. Upper management is likely sitting at the next desk over from a recent grad new hire. This balance is intended to make the company culture more relaxed and make means of communication more comfortable.
An open office creates a dynamic outward appearance. Even if the employees aren’t at peak creativity, it visually appears to be a young, flourishing work space. This style also provides seamless transition for growth. It is much easier to on board and off board employees at a shared space compared to enclosed offices and cubicles (and also easier to add more bodies to a smaller amount of space).
Millennials are much more comfortable working in this style as opposed to older employees. This can be seen as age discrimination and a way to push out older employees or discourage them from attempting to adapt to this new style of working. And although the idea of a buzzing and cooperative work space is appealing, it is not often seen that way through the employee’s perspective.
With little to no barriers, noise levels become an issue. Several conversations going on at once can be distracting and don’t always result in joint brainstorming sessions. This hum of “productivity” can lead to distracted and stressful work environment. Similarly, with so much shared office space, privacy becomes an issue. Employees feel exposed with every habit on display for the rest of the office. Without any personal space for so much of the day a sense of paranoia can kick in. On the opposite side of the spectrum, lack of noise is also an issue. A quieter office can be deafening in a shared space and every previously unnoticed sound (phone call, pen clicking) is heightened.
Overall, open work spaces are visually appealing and can add to a positive work culture but there is a delicate line when trying to balance work productivity and employee needs.
Some office spaces look more like crowded coffee shops than an effective office.