Open floor plan offices are taking over traditional workspaces, breaking down flimsy cubicle walls and strengthening the camaraderie of your team. At apartment-finding service ABODO, we know how important your space can be. That’s why we recently upgraded to an open-concept office ourselves, with department “neighborhoods,” a work-free theater room, seating spaces, and plenty of private office spaces for meetings and phone calls. Other than that, everyone — CEO and executive team included— is out in the open and sharing tables.
Although open workspaces have received some pushback as of late, arising largely from noise complaints, there are numerous upsides to permanently folding up cubicles and opening up the office. Here are 5 we can personally attest to:
Like I mentioned above, at ABODO HQ, executives and upper-level management are working side-by-side with their departments. That means there’s no working up the nerve to knock on office doors, or wondering when your boss will be around for questions. They are around for questions and conversations, as are the rest of your coworkers.
Sitting around and staring at the same four walls, cubicle or brick-and-mortar, day in and day out doesn’t exactly lend itself to innovation. Having your teammates within speaking distance opens up communication so you can quickly bounce ideas off one another, be they bad or good, and land on new ideas that neither would have stumbled across alone. Collaboration is key to innovation, and if you need collaboration, it’s waiting all around you.
Many worry that the two factors listed above will actually diminish work productivity. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In addition to quick feedback, employees should still be entitled to uninterrupted work time. For this reason, many companies create “quiet zones” with more private workspaces, or enforce a “quiet time,” during which time interrupting others’ work is prohibited. There are also other cues to signal “busy” to chatty coworkers, such as investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones or a shift to a more distant seat.
One of the key points of open-office setups is the flexibility — you aren’t stuck at a desk behind fuzzy gray walls that barely have the structural integrity to hold up your wall calendar. Instead, you can move from your desk to a couch or chair for a change of scenery. This flexibility leads to higher productivity and job satisfaction, according to Harvard Business Review.
Likely the largest complaint or concern is the loss of privacy that those cubicle walls provide. And to some extent, it’s unavoidable: When you’re sharing table space, insulating yourself from the noises around you can be tricky. And it’s just as difficult to feel like you have privacy if you’re having a delicate conversation or private phone call (which is what extra meeting rooms are perfect for). But, a different HBR report found that more workers were dissatisfied with sound privacy in cubicles than in open workspaces. Fewer workers overall reported being dissatisfied in this aspect, suggesting that most employees are happy to see and be seen.
An open-concept office might not work for every business — especially one that requires constant phone contact — but many are finding that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Before you make any decision, consider how often your team requires meetings (which can be trimmed with the proper work management software), how closely their work is tied, and if your current space could also support alternative seating, which is a key ingredient in open offices.
Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace based in Madison, Wisconsin. In just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding, and helps more than half a million renters find a new home every month.