Companies today are in love with the open office concept, and that is an understatement. As the most prominent businesses feature open-plan layouts (Google Headquarters, anyone?), a good number of companies think it might be the secret to success.
As a result, these businesses scour dealers of either brand new or used office furniture to make the office as open as possible, and have their employees reap the "benefits." Little do they know about the real drawbacks of such a plan.
The Problems With The Open Office
Experts contend that the biggest problem with the open office layout is due to a misconception. They call this issue benching, which points to rows of tables in a vast open space. Businesses wrongly believe that this layout is good since employees can see and hear each other, promoting productivity — which doesn’t truly happen.
Employees have varied working styles and situations. Some people like to keep things to themselves, while others like to talk a lot. There are times when work actually needs oral collaboration, and there are times when work requires deep thinking and privacy. An entirely open office without varying degrees of privacy is a profound productivity trap.
The Solution At A Glance
There’s only one thing that can fix the open office: balance. Interior design researcher Melanie Redman did a study along with her colleagues that identified privacy as a basic human need. It doesn’t matter what culture the company has: almost every employee needs privacy to either control how their environment makes itself known, or the information they’re projecting onto it.
Companies (and society in general), no matter how much they claim otherwise, have long eschewed introverts. Extroverts practically live to work in an open environment, while introverts simply can’t. The amount of noise and distraction is too much in an open office, hampering their ability to focus. There would always be introverts in every office, and it makes great sense to let them have their way. Dedicated areas where employees can work in solitude needs to complement the open-air workspaces for maximum effect.
All this points to a simple concept: too much of a good thing is bad. There has to be balance in the work environment at all times.