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Is the Open office plan DEAD?!

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Why do we have open offices?

They were designed and sold as a

great new way to collaborate and be more innovative more effective as a team.

The reality, they were necessary to combat the every increasing costs of real-estate. As the cost per square foot increased, the concept of open office increased. And with tech giants like Google jumping on board creating these visually stunning open concept work spaces it was no wonder why others felt it was the solution to there growing problem. More people = more space needed which equaled too much overhead. The open office solved these issues

The reality of open office design

Goal: Promote collaboration

Reality: Face to face interactions fell by 70%

Goal: Increase Productivity

Reality: Studies have shown a decrease in productivity by 15%

Decreased productivity means decreased bottom line for companies

Goal: Create spaces that employees enjoy participating in

Reality: 76% of workers hate open office plans

Facts and figures of open office Design

50% of people have a hard time concentrating in an open plan

It takes 20 minutes to regain your focus after a small distraction

Noise is the biggest problem in open office plan. It distracts us even more then visual distractions.

The number of emails between staff increased by 67%, presumably to avoid distracting others by chatting

Studies have shown a rise in absenteeism rates

Higher turnover rates have been reported

People feel less ownership of there workspace, less ownership, less loyalty? Perhaps

Will the events of 2020 change how we work? What could it look like?

We need to look at some additional information coming out of 2020.

Remote work is doable.

Open text just decided it will not be bringing people back to all of its buildings. I am assuming they will sell off some real-estate. These people are not loosing there jobs, they will be permanently transferred to a remote work set up. Something we haven’t seen to this level before

With some adjustments to design we can reduce fully open spaces to “team” spaces with divisions and pods helping create privacy and separation

We can review a new take on the “cubical” and instead of 85” High panels we look for something in-between with a different layout and offering as much biophilia within the design as possible

"80's" style cubicle farm:

We need to take what we have learned from all the methods that have not worked and look at was has worked and find a happy medium that can satisfy the majority of people working within any space.

Design Concept by Interior Design HUB

Pinwheel design helps with safety and feeling of increased privacy

Barriers are not full height but offer a higher level of privacy

Using a combination of storage towers, panels and sound panels (ezoboard) will help create a new feel for the open but not to open office space

Incorporating plants, softness, storage, and ergonomics can help make the “new” office a nice combo between the old and the open

Creating an “open” cubicle like setting will give the users privacy amongst on another while still allowing to maximise real-estate.

Adding in phone booths, small bookable rooms and other spaces easily accessible to get away and work within the open-ish floor plan

What to expect in the interim:

Lots of dividers, not ideal but effective

When people return to work, if there employer can’t maintain the 6’ physical distance you will most likely end up with quick solutions that involves screens. Not ideal, but may be a great temporary solution while people start seriously rethinking the new office landscape in the coming years.

Final thoughts, is the open office Dead?

I don’t think we are seeing the end of the open office, I think what we are going to see is a movement into a space that allows more privacy within the open floor space.

I believe we will see a movement to more flexibility with remote working, making the need for some physical locations obsolete while re imaging what the current locations look like, perhaps for meetings and social gatherings within teams when needed, but not daily office tasks. I do not think this will be the norm, but I do think we will see more of it. (ex. Open text)

I feel we will see more thought going into the addition of privacy pods, dividers, and using panels to recreate the current space.

I believe we will see employers looking at how to maximize employee well being, by incorporating the above, natural light, biophila, flexible work space, safe distance work spaces, increased mobility in the office/remote working landscape

I believe the future of office design is bright, while people were good going with the “norm” that had been done for many years, this event will push us to change the way we design and implement office space. Not only from a designers perspective but from an employee’s needs and wants in a future employer and what an employer provides to optimize performance, talent, retention and employee safety.

What would you like to see? would you prefer to have an open office, a private office or somewhere in between?

You can also check this out on my You Tube page:


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