The Controversy on Open Office Environments

Basecamp BenchingMillennials in today’s workforce (depending what field they’re working in) have most likely only experienced an open floor office plan so far. Generation X, or “Baby Boomers”, in the workforce have probably seen the transformation take place in their office from private office spaces to open floor layouts. This shift has caused a pretty big fuss in the office design world. Some good examples: Washington Post published the article “The Open-Office Trend is Destroying the Workplace,” and Fast Company wrote an article called “Why Open-Office Layouts Are Bad for Employees, Bosses, and Productivity.” These articles explain the cons of the open office layout, and they have some merit. However, there are pros to the open office layout too, and the solution to this battle seems clear: Employers/decision makers simply need to iron out the details upon implementing an open office plan. Flexibility is the key word. As stated in Steelcase’s “Why Employee Engagement Matters” article, “employees who have more choice and control over their work experience are more engaged.” An open office layout with options can truly make a world of difference. “Highly engaged workers are typically able to choose where to work in the office based on the task they are doing—they aren’t tethered to their desk. They can control their need for privacy, concentrate easily and work with their teammates without disruptions. Their workplace supports movement throughout the day and working in a variety of postures” (Steelcase).Basecamp Conference Tables

In Kaufman’s article for the Washington post, mentioned above, she states all of the things she cannot stand about the open office plan, but does offer some solutions at the end of her article. Creating private areas, implementing rules such as knowing not to interrupt a coworker that has headphones in, and allowing employees to work from home are a few suggestions included in her article.Basecamp Conference Tables

How can open work plans work out for everyone involved? In’s article, “The Secret To An Open Floor Office Your Employees Will Absolutely Love,” they mention the research group called WorkSpace Futures that exists within Steelcase. The group’s Vice President, Donna Flynn, has some wise words: “An open plan isn’t to blame any more than reverting to all private offices can be a solution. There is no single type of optimal work setting. Instead, it’s about achieving the right balance between working in privacy and working together to achieve innovation and advance.”


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