Over the past 20 years we’ve moved many office spaces and have seen a rise in the trend of “open workspaces,” particularly in companies where creativity and technology are important.
Collaboration is the name of the game; put employees side-by-side and face-to-face to promote productivity and innovation. Not only that, but it is a way for companies to maximize on space efficiently.
An example of an open workspace can be found at a company that is well-known to many – Buzzfeed. (If you are not familiar with Buzzfeed, it provides shareable news, entertainment, and video to a global audience online.)
While this may be an ideal set up for some companies and employees, for others, this is the equivalent of having to attend a gathering when you have a yearly analysis report due the next day.
The Personality Issue:
One of the greatest things about collaborating with other people is that they each come with their own viewpoints, expertise, and personalities.
Most people can work effectively and happily with others, even those with strong personalities and quirks, if they only have to work with them in manageable doses. Putting employees face-to-face for eight hours a day may change the mood of the employees and ultimately reduce their ability to work productively.
The Concentration Issue:
Personalities aside, most jobs require a certain level of concentration to complete tasks; a programmer working on a complicated code, a journalist overcoming writer’s block, an accountant balancing their books.
Not having the ability to think without interruption could be detrimental to the efficiency of an employee and can ultimately create unhappiness in the workplace.
The Privacy Issue:
Almost every employee at one time or another has taken a private call; whether it was a call to their doctor to make an appointment, to speak to a family member in distress, or to check up on a loved one.
Open workspaces make it difficult to get those few moments of privacy. Those few moments of privacy may be just what the employee needs in order to return to work productively because there is now one less thing weighing on their mind.
The Bottom Line:
According to Workspace satisfaction: the privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices, a study published in the 2013 Journal of Environmental Psychology and discussed by the Washington Post, many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that can decrease work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy.
While open workspaces may be great for collaboration, employers should also take measures to create private work areas for those employees who need a quieter atmosphere to focus and concentrate.