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Is an Open Office Right for Your Business in Chicago: Pros and Cons

What Is an Open Office Concept?

An open office concept removes physical walls between workers to encourage effective team building and increased levels of creativity. It is the opposite of the cubicle design method that was first introduced in the 1960s that no longer serves open and creative working environments.

So, what is an open office environment? Open concept workspaces are designed to create more inspiring environments where employees can interact, which in turn fosters a strong company culture, improved communication, and trust. Without limiting walls, the floor plan can change to meet the needs of the company, and desks can be congregated in various formations.

What is an open-plan office layout? Typically, desks can either be arranged in clusters designating different teams or can comprise long trestle-like formations where many employees work around a central area. Layout designs are only limited by office size.

Let’s investigate common open space offices pros and cons to help you discern whether an open office is best for your business.

Advantages of an Open Office for Business

Advantages of an Open Office for Business

What are the advantages of an open office? At the very least, it offers an increased sense of community, collaboration, and expansiveness.

High Economic Efficiency

One of the benefits of an open space office is that businesses no longer have to spend large sums of money to furnish separate cubicles. Employees can work together on large, shared desks.

Over the past 7 years, the average square foot per worker has dropped by 33%, increasing companies’ profits. Resources like copiers, printers, and scanners can be stationed at a central area, eliminating the need for each office to have its own.

Increase in Internal Company Communication

Another reason why open offices are good is that they boost communication among employees. With no walls, employees and managers are more approachable. Chance encounters between workers are conducive with smartly designed workstations. 

And, it’s not just about open communication; information also flows more freely. Instead of walking from office to office, people can quickly converse face to face. Open concept workspaces are also beneficial for freelancers as they can network with others, which can be advantageous for their business.

Flexibility

Open-concept workspaces offer the freedom to arrange desks and workstations any way a business sees fit. It’s easy to accommodate growing teams and group-specific company divisions together when mutually beneficial. Increased camaraderie can lead to better collaboration. For remote and freelance workers, open-concept workspaces don’t require commitment, and they can come and go as they please.

Most open-plan offices use modular furniture that can move around to suit employee needs and work functions. This is beneficial when different teams collaborate on projects. Modular furniture also allows for bespoke furniture arrangements that promote conducive working environments for everyone, including those who require a smidgen more privacy.

Stylish

What is an open office plan without taking advantage of a style update? The working area of an open office concept is like a blank canvas, offering multitudes of design and decor options. If furnishings are minimally designed, office decor and design can be easily updated with modular furniture.

Without walls, the shared space also allows for increased natural light and feels more expansive. Businesses stuck in the cubicle age do seem somewhat dated and stuffy, embodying a stiffer and potentially more bureaucratic atmosphere. It is also possible to cordon off areas within the office specifically relegated to hosting lengthier meetings or work activities.

Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office

Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office

Sometimes the benefits of collaboration are outweighed by increased noise, disruption, and a lack of privacy.

Too Much Noise

Open-plan offices don’t work if you need a peaceful working environment. Those who advocate against open-concept workspaces site noise levels as their top reasons for favoring more private working spaces. Research suggests nearly 100% of open-office workers are distracted by their co-workers.

One of the massive disadvantages of an open plan office is the decrease in concentration caused by noise. It acutely affects productivity levels. However, this can be mitigated by using online chat applications to minimize quick conversations that don’t warrant a meeting or email interaction.

Weak Privacy

Other disadvantages of open floor plans include a severe lack of privacy for employees. Most will share a desk station with no dividing partitions, making it difficult to have confidential conversations. Even if the conversations aren’t private, it can be an annoyance for other employees who have no choice but to overhear them.

This is especially pertinent for those in managerial positions or heads of departments, where an open office concept not working could negatively impact business, especially if they need to conduct confidential business operations. Setting up a private working space for such needs can solve this common problem.

Increased Stress

Open office environment stress can be exacerbated by lack of privacy and insecure micromanagers constantly peering over their colleagues’ shoulders, mimicking a surveillance state. It can also lead to overcrowding and the consequent need to appear constantly busy due to heightened visibility.

Older and introverted workers may struggle with this type of working environment. Research has found that negative moods increased by 25% after observing the relationship between open-plan office noise, stress, and irritability. This may not be the best environment for work that requires careful concentration and silence.

High Concentration of Microbes

Germs spread faster and easier when more people share a common space. If one employee is sick, it can have a knock-on effect on the entire team or office. Different studies suggest that there are more than 10 million bacteria on an ordinary office desk.

While it’s impossible to kill all bacteria, an increase in office sanitation can curb the health risks they pose. That being said, the global COVID pandemic has improved general hygiene standards, such as sanitizing hands and surfaces more frequently, which is hopefully here to stay.

Conclusion

There are clear advantages and disadvantages of open office space. Is an open office good? The decision is indicative of the work your company does. Disadvantages can be ameliorated by designing quieter areas or setting up desk partitions for employees who may need intense focus. But, for some companies, the disadvantages aren’t worth the benefits.

Whether you’re a freelancer or a company in need of open or private office space, Stream Realty Partners have a variety of fully furnished office spaces to suit your needs. We have a long history of matching tenants with ideal workspaces that boost creativity and productivity. Click here to find out more about our office spaces for rent in Chicago.

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