Is an Open Workplace Right For Your Company?

by Elizabeth Dukes on December 2, 2015

Picture your office. Now imagine it without walls, cubicles or the traditional CEO corner office. Imagine your only enclosed spaces are a couple of reservable rooms, generally used for client meetings and private calls. Imagine a vast expanse of unobstructed workstations and communal areas where employees gather for team meetings, impromptu chats and creative collaboration.

iStock_76274877_MEDIUM.jpgThis is an open office and, in theory, it’s designed to facilitate communication and innovation. It’s the work environment made popular by Silicon Valley tech giants like Google and Facebook, and it’s become all the rage in the startup tech community.

Everyone seems to be jumping on the open-office bandwagon, but is it right for your business?

We’re going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of this office style, and help you determine whether it’s the right fit for you and your team. 

Advantages of an Open Office

For Staff:

Tear down the scaling walls currently divvying up your office staff, and some interesting things are likely to happen.

First, your employees are going to start interacting and collaborating—a lot. Increased communication helps foster camaraderie between employees, and supports the development of a community around your brand. When employees aren’t divided by boundaries, impromptu brainstorming is inevitable. This is incredibly valuable for businesses that depend on creativity and innovative thinking.

In an environment where information sharing and teamwork thrives, things are likely to get done far more quickly. Open floor plans also help level out hierarchies that often inhibit collaboration and cause rifts among teams.

For Business:

From an economical standpoint, well-designed, open floor plans can help reduce operational costs.

Fewer walls mean less construction, including materials, hard-wiring and utility installation. A single open room also increases airflow and lighting, which means you can reduce your organization’s consumption of utilities like heat, air conditioning and electricity. Because equipment becomes communal, your organization may be able to scale down on printers, copiers and other shared equipment.

Open Office Disadvantages

For Staff:

On the flip side, the increase in communication and interaction may lead to noise and distractions. If noise interferes with an employee’s ability to do their work, they may become frustrated, unhappy and even hostile toward co-workers.

Our current workforce is made up of 4 different generations of people. The Silent and Baby Boomer generations are accustomed to a different work style than Generation X-ers and Millennials. Putting them all in a single room together and expecting them to sing Kumbaya might not pan out the way you’d hoped.

The lack of privacy afforded by an open floor plan may also impact employee comfort. Computer screens, phone conversations, in-person chats … Everyone can see and hear what everyone else is doing, which may give rise to legal or ethical issues.

These disadvantages can be a detriment to productivity and overall business output. But with the right processes in place, and your Integrated Workplace Management Software (IWMS), you can overcome various challenges.

How IWMS Can Help Make Your Open Office Successful

Here are a few aspects of IWMS that can help you succeed with an open-office environment.

  • Space Management

    Space management software allows for visualization of floor plans so users can easily identify various room and space types, as well as the occupancy and capacity of each space. The IWMS can capture various data feeds that quantify use by type. These data feeds can include a range of data points from other systems, such as badging systems, routers, sensors, etc. By analyzing utilization by space type, the correct balance of quiet, collaborative and meeting space can be configured to achieve a successful open office.
  • Room Reservations

    For reservable spaces, whether they are meeting rooms or quiet space, room reservation tools ensure users can access the right space at the right time. Room reservation software that is integrated with space floor plans allows users to visualize meeting times and locations in real-time, so they can effectively plan based on their workspace requirements.

  • Asset Tracking 

    Asset tracking software allows assets to be easily tracked and identified on floor plans so workers can effortlessly locate equipment as required. With open offices, equipment that historically may have been located in a specific room may be now in a corner.  Asset tracking software integrates with space floor plans so it’s visualized by workers.  In addition, asset tracking software allows operations to properly quantify and maintain equipment to ensure they’re functioning at maximum capacity. 

Ultimately, the decision to adopt an open office depends on your business model, the habits and preferences of your employees and the nature of your work. Although open offices have become more common, they’re not the best solution for every company. However, if you crave the sense of community, collaboration and casual environment afforded by an open office, using the above IWMS tools can make for a smooth transition.

Whether you have an open office, or err on the more traditional side, space management is crucial to productivity. Learn more in our free eBook, The Essential Guide to Space Management Software.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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