Whether you’ve launched a new start-up or simply wish to give the current office space a makeover, the thought of going open plan is one that’s probably entered your mind. It was good enough for Wernham Hogg, Reynholm Industries and just about every other fictional televised office – so surely, it’s good enough for you too, right?
It’s not quite as easy as copying the office designs from TV programs, though. After all, (spoiler alert) they aren’t real life, and the real reason for the open plan layouts on your favourite shows is more to do with camera angles than replicating the best working environment (I know, who’d have thought!).
If you’re planning to go open plan in real life, it’s important to appreciate the pros as well as the cons. Here are some of the key issues to consider.
There’s no escaping the fact that every business decision is a financial decision. On the bright side, going open plan removes the need to invest in cubicle walls and individual desks. Likewise, the fact that colleagues can share facilities can work wonders for the overheads.
Then again, if the office is already designed in a traditional manner, keeping things as they are will save the need to redecorate or invest in new items. Better still, it saves you the hassle of completing a transformation. Lazy or smart? You decide.
Every business relies heavily on great communication, and this is one of the main incentives for going open plan. Empowering your team to collaborate without even having to leave their desks can be a truly wonderful thing….sometimes.
While the option to ask a colleague for help is great for the person having problems, it can be very distracting for the other employee. This is the equivalent of being stuck in a car with a child that keeps asking “are we there yet?”. Only the journey lasts for eight hours… Oh, and you’ve got to repeat the journey five days a week for years to come. So, yeah, consider that one carefully.
Overall, flexibility in business can only ever be a good thing. Going open plan enables you to make the necessary adjustments to deal with any problems that may surface. Similarly, it gives your business a chance to grow and evolve in the most efficient fashion. Still, there are a few minor negatives to consider.
Most noticeably, employees may start making requests for changes. Not only does the redecorating eat into productivity, but those layout modifications won’t always have your best interests in mind. As long as you retain a sense of control and authority, you should be fine.
As an upshot of the improved communication, it’s likely that going open plan will promote an increased sense of team unity and togetherness. While there’s a fine line between beneficial talks and distractions, a little leisurely talking can aid morale and help the team thrive.
Unfortunately, stories won’t be the only thing that they share. Germs are far more likely to spread when you have an open plan office, which can see sick days skyrocket. With this in mind, taking cleanliness around the office to new heights is essential. Even then, you might find that it’s not enough.
The interior design choices can have a telling impact on the sense of motivation and pride. An open plan office gives you an excellent opportunity to celebrate the brand by incorporating the logo on a wall or displaying accolades. So, in terms of setting a positive tone, this is a great option.
Unfortunately, limiting yourself to one room means that you have to choose ideas that work for everyone. It’s not possible to cater to specific teams or individuals. As you probably know from your personal life, trying to please everyone can often result in disappointment all round.
The Final Verdict
If you were looking for a definitive answer, I’ve got some bad news for you (sorry it’s taken you this long to learn this) as the truth of the matter is that there is no one right or wrong solution. As with most major decisions in life, there are positives and negatives to consider whichever route you take. The right option is the one that works best for you.
Sorry, we can’t offer much more support than that, but at least you now have the information needed to make the right decision. If all else fails, ask yourself what Brent would do – and then do the opposite.