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Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

“70 percent of US offices have some form of an open concept” International Facility Management Association 2018

While there are many issues to consider when designing the perfect workspace (ergonomics, safety issues, sitting vs standing, etc.), the open office space is a trend worth examining. In fact, according to the International Facility Management Association, “70% of US offices have some sort of open concept.” Despite so many offices adopting the open office, there has also been an increasing pushback to the idea. So, just what are the pros and cons of an open office environment?

The Pros

Tech companies like Facebook and Google helped make the open office environment popular and many other companies have followed suit. One of the major selling points of the open office is that it tears down cubicle walls and allows employees to openly communicate and build relationships.

The idea is that, without walls, office workers will be able to brainstorm and bond while working, ultimately becoming a greater team with greater productivity than their cubicle counterparts.

Additionally, open office spaces tend to be more affordable to build than cubicles as well as more attractive to look at in an office setting.

The Cons

While the cubicle wall sounds old fashioned, it was serving a few purposes. Having walls around you allows for you to work in privacy and focus directly on your task, which can be lost when exposed to the noise and distractions of the open office environment. In fact, “75 percent of office workers report frequent noise during the workday and 38 percent would change jobs to have an office door they could shut,” according to Gallup 2017.

While open offices are designed to promote more communication, the lack of privacy may have had a negative impact on communication. YouGov reports that “31 percent have had to go to a closet or hall to make a call and 31 percent have held back thoughts and opinions for fear of co-workers hearing and judging.”

Design the workspace that feels right for your workers

Open office layouts may increase face time, leading to stronger bonds, but it could also lead to negative communication or fear of communication due to the lack of privacy in the forced open space. Knowing there are pros and cons to having an open office, it may make sense to seek out alternatives.
 
The Hub and Spoke office design attempts to extract the best of the open office while maintaining some of the concepts of the private office design. The Hub and Spoke utilizes “a singular entryway into common spaces and hallways that spoke out to different individual offices” as described by ArchDaily. The concept is meant to be a mixture of the open office and the personal office, which allows workers the ability to collaborate, but also work on their own in private.

An important takeaway is that you should balance different concepts and create a custom space that works best for your needs.

In conclusion

Whether your workers work in a home office, open office, cubicle workstation, or other type of workstation, it is important to create a healthy work environment for your workers because it will lead to more productivity in the long run.

We recommend contacting an ergonomics expert to perform an ergonomics assessment on your workspace. For more tips about your workspace, be sure to visit and subscribe to our blog for more office and ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

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