When open plan offices don’t work. And times when they do

Most, if not all of you reading this will be working in an office you share with other people. Some of you will lucky enough to share with one or two other people, some of you will be sharing with 10 or more.

Does this environment work for you? Do you have enough ‘space’ for desk-work, phone calls, meetings, quiet ‘leave-me-alone-I’m-trying-to-concentrate’ work?

For me the benefits of working in an open plan environment outweigh the limitations, but only just. This is why:

  • Good: The ability to stand up and walk across to a colleague to talk through an issue, a thought, an idea, a problem. Fewer emails and more interaction/engagement with colleagues is always a good thing!
  • Bad: You never get a quiet spell to yourself to focus and concentrate. Distractions come from all different directions, people included and not just the physical environment.
  • Good: Working closely with colleagues in different teams can be difficult, even if your open plan office is limited to individual teams in different spaces. Being ‘open’ offers the opportunity to make collaboration easier.
  • Bad: Open plan offices should not have the kitchen area as part of it. From late morning to mid-afternoon you just can’t get around the smell of everyones lunch.
  • Good: Being flexible around an open plan office really only works if there are smaller, bookable and ‘closed’ spaces for people to use for meetings, phonecalls, personal time or sensitive conversations.
  • Bad: Wearing headphones all day to get your personal/quiet space is not good.
  • Good: It’s good to see your managers and the senior team of your organisation on a regular basis.
  • Bad: Individual cubicles should never be an option.

For me the best environment for work, not necessarliy ‘remote’ work but ‘office’ work, would be the kind of space I’m already in, open plan working for the contact and collaboration, but with the availability of more smaller, bookable spaces for small meetings and/or independent working (pods).

Some links for you to click:

Image source: stavos (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)