Skip to main content


The end of the open-plan office?

When thinking of the ideal modern office, many will jump straight to one that’s open plan. The tech startups of the world seem to have shown that success lies within an open, airy workplace using modern furniture. After all, what could be better than following the example of Silicon Valley?

Google may have got it wrong however, according to studies, and it could be time to take a good look at what the best approach to an office actually is.

The what and why of open-plan

According to Kaspersky, the open-plan office largely rose in popularity thanks to one key factor: money. As there are no walls eating up space, the business is able to pack more staff into a tight area, thus delaying the need to move to a new office.

Typically, an open-plan office has no barriers separating staff, which ideally means easier communication and fewer issues when it comes to introducing new workers into the office environment. There are numerous problems, however.

Taking a look at the issues

Open-plan offices mean more noise, a greater inability to focus, continuous interaction with other staff members and stress related to productivity changes.

“Not only do people working in open plan offices feel worse and work less efficiently, they are more prone to illnesses,” Vladislav Biryukov from Kaspersky said. “For example, frequency of cases of short-term queasiness (not necessitating medical assistance) is higher for those who work in large offices rather than among those who work in separate rooms.”

What’s more, a study from the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that open-plan offices recorded 62 per cent more sick days than one-occupant alternatives. Why? Apparently, the lack of walls allows the easy spread of germs and bacteria.

Conversations, phones and machines in general ranked as the most annoying office sounds.

CK Mak and YP Lui research surveyed office workers, and discovered that sound and temperature mattered the most out of a host of office factors. Conversations, phones and machines in general ranked as the most annoying office sounds.

Recently, Facebook set out to build one such office, enlisting famous architect Frank Gehry to design a space to hold 3,000 engineers, sales people and other staff. Upon completion, it was one of the largest open-plan offices in the world. It remains to be seen whether this approach to the office has any impact on staff productivity.

What may have once seemed an obvious evolution for the office is now proving to be wrought with issues, and businesses would be wise to consider a new approach when undertaking a fitout.

Finding a solution that works

Unsurprisingly, the solution lies with an office space that has some separation for staff, without enclosing them in cubicles. This means new types of office furniture and decor that mean workers can focus and get away to work on their projects. Bloomberg explained that a balance is still important, especially given the fact that technology can now facilitate such strong collaboration.

“The key to making workers happy and productive is having a mix of spaces for different activities,” the organisation noted. “Of course, office workers still spend most of the day at their desks, but when it’s time to do some hard-core collaborating or learning, moving to a different environment can help them shift gears.”

Connected furniture settings are one such way to introduce a new of working, while still retaining the required privacy for actual focus. What’s more, using new technologies, such as video conferencing, can help to facilitate collaboration across wider distances. If staff are working from home, for example, video communications mean staff can stay in touch.

Of course, there are likely going to be a large number of offices where open plan is necessary, simply based on space requirements alone. The answer here? In true flexible office fashion, the best approach is quiet areas that are placed in various spaces around the office. These allow staff to leave their desks and work in isolated areas or with other colleagues.

Looking ahead

Open-plan offices, while at one time appearing to be the future of the workplace, are now seen as spaces where there are definite hits to employee productivity. Any business planning an office fitout needs to think carefully about the design, beyond just aesthetics.

Getting the workplace right can often seem difficult, especially when trying to balance employee productivity and creating an office that strengthens the company brand. Speak to A1 Office to find out more about creating a modern office that works.

After all, the time of the open-plan office is now over, and it’s important to consider new and more suitable approaches.

If you’re not sure about the future of the open plan office, contact us today and our A1 team can discuss the endless possibilities for your office fitout!

Let us create
a plan for your business.