With a clear message to the “cube” culture, open floor plans have come to dominate not only startups but large corporate organizations as well. Facebook, for one, has the largest open floor plan in the world, which currently holds 2,800 employees.
If you’re considering if an open floor plan is right for your business, consider the following pros and cons from members of Forbes Coaches Council.
1. Disrupts Deep Work
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport emphasizes the importance of focused attention to do deep work — work that truly matters. Open floor plans disrupt focus. Constant interruption and noise and activity around you disrupts your ability to think and focus and produce work that can be earth shattering for the organization. Collaboration has to be separate from the space to do deep work. – Gia Ganesh, Gia Ganesh Coaching
2. Offers A 360° Viewpoint
Open floor plans give staff a 360° view of what’s going on in their colleagues’ realms. Not only can they collaborate by turning a chair and having that “in time” conversation, but it gives people an idea of how busy their colleagues are, what their stressors are (through tone of voice and body language), and when they’re excited about a situation. It helps them really get to know who they’re working with. – Donna Karlin, No Ceiling, Just Sky™ Institute
3. Wonderful If You Want A Frat House
One of the most popular trends in startup real estate is open floor plans, ostensibly to increase transparency, collaboration and a sense of camaraderie. That’s wonderful if you want a frat house at work. It’s awful in practice, since the eyes are always adrift toward distractions and constant movement, conversations and anything but sustained productivity. A balance of open and closed is best. – Yuri Kruman, Master The Talk Consulting
4. Allows For Flow
Open floor plans support the creative process and are great for open collaboration and brainstorming. The dynamic pace is best suited for organizations who are moving at a fast pace, are consensus-driven, and can operate in an open and transparent fashion. – Lizabeth Czepiel, Lizabeth Czepiel, LLC
5. Depends On Your Culture And Line Of Work
What’s your company culture? Are there lots of extroverts hanging out and introverts hanging in the corners? Open floor plans are great for sales and marketing teams who thrive on interaction. Tech and IT teams that get into a coding groove might prefer closed doors to work all night long. A combination of both can keep everyone happily working together. – Judi Rhee Alloway, Imagine Leadership LLC
6. Foster Inclusion And Communication
If your staff requires silent silos to perform, then an open office plan won’t succeed. But for just about any other employee, the open office will foster communication, inclusion and teamwork. You can make it easier for employees to interact, brainstorm and contribute with an open office. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors international
7. Drains Introverts
A completely open floor plan can drain an introvert dry. A blend of quiet, private space for focused work along with collaborative openness for creative energy and idea-sharing would be ideal. Cubicles are neither. Ask your employees to describe an environment they feel energized and productive in, listen to their answer, and then use the information to create your space. – Kris McCrea Scrutchfield, McCrea Coaching
8. Stunts Innovation
In our fail fast era, trying different things in the full transparency of those around you can sometimes inhibit the risk-taking behavior that drives innovation. In order to leverage this powerful structural model, be sure to promote a positive, trusting culture for employees, and include plenty of offline, private conference rooms that staffers can check into regularly. – James Lopata, InnerOvation
9. Makes Work Looks Fun
Open seating and floor plans that look like fun places make work better places to be rather than dread. They help. How much money does Apple or Facebook make? What do cool coffee shops look like? Work gets done at those places and people make a lot of money. They work a lot, but it’s not a sterile old mental hospital. Design work spaces to be cool. It’s almost always right. – John O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
10. Promotes Feelings Of Being ‘Spied On’
Studies have shown that office noise and disruption limits an employee’s ability to think efficiently, recall information, and have a normal attention span. Aside from increased stress levels and absenteeism due to mass sick-outs, it also creates suspicion and mistrust for employees who feel “spied upon.” If you’re looking for more creativity from your staff, give them space. – Erin Kennedy, Professional Resume Services, Inc.