The important trend of public or open workspaces introduced in the early 21st century.
Only intention was to improve collaboration with employees and decrease hierarchical blocks in the organization. The thought was to replace cubicles and closed cabins where employees believed the management was inaccessible and unapproachable, with open areas.
Many Silicon Valley companies talk about the pros of public workspaces.
It is necessary to know that public workspaces are not only about the loss of physical barriers but also collaborative software and platforms that encourage employees to work together closely. It means both physical and digital spaces of an organization should be open and accessible by all.
Although, this is not the ultimate solution. For every company that has voted for open workspaces, there seems to be an equal number of companies who do not support this particular arrangement. There have been various discussions about which one is better. Open offices improve collaboration but lacking in privacy. Cubicles and closed offices help concentration on work, but active communication is not possible in this case.
It is transparent that there are cons and pros to open workspaces. But with the appropriate rules and precautions, organizations can defeat these cons and benefit the advantages of open workspaces to make it more efficient.
Pros of open work spaces
Better communication between workers:
Better communication between workers. When an organization lacks physical barriers, employees are more likely to interact with one another and act as a team. Generally, improved communication boosts collaboration efforts between various levels of employees, so even a manager can feel more friendly.
This is also great for freelancers who would work from home. Renting a workspace in an open office provides self-employed workers with the chance to interact and network with other creatives, which can be useful for their respective businesses. There’s a term for this aspect called “culture collision,” which is when chance encounters occur between workers in an open-office space. Culture collisions are helpful to creativity, support, and building a sense of community.
Transparent work culture:
Those companies having a focus on developing open workspaces are also ready to increase transparency in the workplace. With the increasing number of young people in the workplace, there has been an enormous shift in the way management shares data across the company. Everyone wants to understand what is the meaning of their actions and how do they contribute towards the overall organizational victory.
Every employee feels that they should be aware of what their team is working on, who do they communicate to, what are their purposes and how does all of this fit into the picture. To promote open workspaces, there are some specific tools that companies can leverage. Employees can be provided access to their Company Directory wherein they get to see how every single employee is working on different levels and how departments are interconnected. Thus, workplace transparency can enhance visibly not just physically but also digitally.
Lack of physical boundaries supports employees to communicate with each other and cooperate whenever required freely. Open workspaces also prove that data is collected in a centralized system and everyone is given access to it. Blocking confidential information, it is usually accessible by employees at the bottom tier of the hierarchy to the top level management.
If any new data is being updated in the system, then irrespective of the time or location, that data should be refreshed across everyone’s network in real time. Say, for instance, if some members of the same office, work according to various time zones, they should still have access to the same data. Any updates that take place should be delivered to them within the tool in the mode of notifications. That way, every employee stays on the same page.
Open offices are more cost-effective than usual cubicles or private offices. With less overhead, you can assure each worker has the necessary space and tools to conduct business. Just think how much you can store when you don’t have to buy large individual tables and cubicle walls.
Nowadays, many small businesses are opting to rent fully equipped private offices with open office layouts placed inside dedicated workspace buildings. These office spaces include access to high-speed internet, multi-function copiers, common areas, free refreshments, and professional cleaning services. As this option is much cheaper than renting an entire building, floor, or office rental, you can spend more money into the company as it expands.
Beside an open-office plan, you don’t have to commit to a particular layout. Open workspaces are created to maximize flexibility. You can also add more employees to a public space. As the office grows, you can replace the layout however you see fit or move certain teams around. In conventional arrangements, you would have to increase the office by renting multiple floors or buildings. For permanent workers and freelancers, shared public offices don’t need any commitment. You can come and go according to your need based on your membership. Nothing is extra flexible than that.
Open offices own clean lines and stylish vibes that you won’t find in cubicle spaces. Cubicles can make an office seem smaller and more limited. All those hideous cubicles add nothing to the office’s environment and can even decrease creative thinking.
Cubicle system mainly came into use during the 1960s, and not much has grown since then. While they do give privacy, each one is the same from another, which can make workers feel ambushed. Meanwhile, you opt for an open office; there’s extra room to breathe. And you and your team have more creativity in how you brighten the space.
No more barriers:
One of the most critical reasons more companies are choosing open offices is because the layout eliminates boundaries between employees and managers. There are no offices for managers to dig them up, which usually makes them seem unapproachable.
Without physical barriers, also the founder of a startup can serve on the same level as his newest employees without anyone thinking like they’re lower on the scale. Since everyone seems part of the team, there’s an immediate increase in employee innovation and conversation between departments.
While the open office design started as a creative trend, its lasting power is positive. As so many other businesses have changed to open offices, businesses stuck in the cubicle age can seem behind the times.
When you meet with fellow business owners, clients, and vendors in your open office, you leave a positive impact on them. Holding a meeting in a regular office will suddenly appear dull and dated to anyone who works in an open office setting. This is not easy to say you should make the switch to an open-office plan because everyone else is doing it, but it can be beneficial.
They lack visual hierarchy:
Meanwhile, in an open office, managers, and even executives work side-by-side with employees on a visual level. There is no other fancy corner to indicate status or separate teams.
Cons of Open work spaces
As open workspaces may look more lively and active as opposed to closed environments, it is not essential that everyone prefers such a free workspace environment. Some individuals may find it difficult to focus on their tasks with all the sound around. They will be continually diverted which could ultimately affect their appearance as well as their productivity.
So, while the idea of open workspaces may have been to foster further communication and collaboration, it may not be as effective as you thought it would be. Note: Companies also need to have some quiet corners where workers can quietly observe so that they are not surprised with all the activities and noise. Likewise, any tools that are being used should begin with the ability to silent notifications for specific periods. That way workers can carry on with their work uninterrupted and give it their full attention.
The idea following open workspaces is to improve collaboration among workers and get everyone to express their beliefs and opinions openly. The difficulty here is that this idea does not take into considerations the different types of personalities. Not each employee is outgoing or socializers who can publicly share their views. There are introverts, and they may find it difficult to speak up. They will ultimately end up agreeing with whatever the majority of the company decides despite the majority being wrong. This is called a herd mentality.
Note: There must be more than one way of getting everyone to share their ideas. Companies can further add a private channel where such workers can freely speak up. For example one on one meetings with their managers. They may have a brighter insight into difficulty, and while it is different from what the majority says, they won't hesitate to give their idea.
Lack of privacy:
Maximum people in favor of cubicles lead to dismissing the open office concept because it doesn’t allow any privacy to flow. When you’re working near to several other people in close quarters, it’s sure that you can’t make a private phone call without someone hearing, but many co-working places account for this problem by offering private telephone booths on site.
While a loss of privacy can be a downfall, it also has its advantages. Employees are more likely to stay focused and keep those separate phone calls and texts to a point. Usually, a lack of barriers also gives managers the capability to keep an eye on workers. While this is absolutely a pro for the boss, it can be a con for the worker who feels concerned about always being watched.
Lack of privacy and improved distractions, open-office areas can be more stressful for workers. A study has revealed open offices lead to cause age difference because older employees are more likely to deal with stress, cardiac issues, and digestive problems from the stressful environment. When this occurs, they resign. Older applicants are also more likely to be moved over for younger applicants in open office surroundings.
Since workers feel as if they continually need to give the appearance of potency, they start to multitask more, which usually leads to ineffectiveness and frustration. Open-back visibility can cause health problems like vertigo. It can also make an employee feel paranoid that someone is always looking over his shoulder.
Open spaces can be noisy:
Hundreds of workers typing and having deep conversations can lead to a lot of noise. Noise disturbances decrease employee productivity, as study shown. As you plan your design, include as much sound absorbing stuff as possible into your furnishings and endings.
Some projects require secrecy:
There might be a point where working on proprietary projects, or sensitive contracts can happen, and indeed it should not be overheard. One example is government contracts that need safety clearance; another is workers who discuss private health information.
Some employees need to concentrate more:
Some workers want more silent time like content writers, engineers, software coders, accountants, for example. Pushing them into an open workspace may be not productive at all. A perfect office should consist of even workspace. That is, while a bulk of it could be free, there must be areas where workers can, however, work in isolation as per their suitability. It will help organizations to extract the advantages of both closed and open workspace and also deny most of the cons of either arrangement.
It is interesting to notice how the workspace ergonomics can have such a long-lasting impression.
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