Why The Open Office Really Isn't A Good Idea

The “open office” trend started a couple decades ago, and companies continue to flock to the idea, even to this day.

On paper, the concept sounds fantastic. Nobody has ever been overly fond of the “cubicle farm,” and the open office concept was seen as the cure for this. Tear down the cube walls! Open everything up! Make it easier for employees to communicate with each other and magic will happen!

Unfortunately, the magic hasn’t really happened. Study after study into this issue has revealed that what little money the open office concept saves in floor space, it loses (and then some) in the form of a reduction in productivity.

The biggest reason is simply the fact that the open concept is loud, and let’s face it, the modern work environment requires quick thinking and a certain level of focus and concentration. It’s hard to concentrate when it’s noisy, and when literally anyone, at any time, can just walk up and start talking to you.

These same studies that have proved time and time again that the open office concept doesn’t work have also sought to identify employees chief complaints when working in environments like these. Their responses should come as no surprise.

The biggest complaint heard is that employees are desperate for a quiet place to work, and they don’t care whether that takes the form of a private office or a high-walled cubicle – they just need a place where they can get something done.

The second biggest complaint is a direct consequence of the first. Since employees are still, by and large, enamored with the notion of the open office, an increasing percentage of employees are agitating to work from home, even if they have to take a pay cut to do it.

Sure, part of the reason for wanting to work from home stems from a desire to eliminate the time spent commuting to and from work, and to have a more flexible work schedule, but another part is simply that working from home gives employees the privacy they need to actually get stuff done.

Unfortunately, an alarming percentage of managers just don’t seem to be getting the message. Despite the fact that a growing number of employees are fairly begging for a more private work space and increasingly agitating to work from home, an alarming percentage of business owners continue to embrace open office concepts.

This needs to change, and the sooner it does, the better.

If you own your own business, and have embraced the open office philosophy, perhaps its time for a rethink. Start by sitting down with your employees to find out exactly what they think about it and how it’s working out for them. You might be surprised by the answers you get. If your employees are like most, then you’ll find that more than half of them don’t really like the change, and would much prefer an quieter work environment that allows them to get their work done without distraction.