What is an Open Office Concept? (With Types and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many ways to design an office space, and open concept offices typically have many advantages over other workplace designs. An open office space can help you create a happier and healthier work environment, which can make the office a more inviting space. Understanding how to design an open office space can help you improve efficiency and morale in the workplace. In this article, we define an open office space, review different types of office plans, and outline the benefits and challenges of an open concept office space.

What is an open office concept?

An open office concept is a design plan that removes physical barriers in the workplace to create a more open and inviting environment for employees. Traditional offices typically comprise cubicles that give each employee their own individual space. Many modern offices prefer to use open concept floor plans because of the various benefits they can offer. Open offices typically encourage closer teamwork, promote a workplace community, and increase productivity. Removing physical barriers can allow employees to converse more freely, which can increase the team's creativity and lead to new ideas.

Types of open concept office floor plans

Here are a few different methods you can use to design an open concept office:

Fully open

This is the most common layout for an open concept office plan. Having a fully open office means there are almost no physical barriers and that employees can move around freely. This floor plan is popular among modern companies because it allows employees to mingle with each other to share ideas and choose a comfortable spot where they may work most productively. Some employees can adapt to any workspace, while others may produce far better work when allowed to choose a particular desk. A fully open layout can also increase the team's morale by offering more opportunities to socialize.

Related: How to Become an Effective Communicator

Partially open

This is typically a good balance between the use of cubicles and having a fully open plan. A partially open floor plan doesn't have cubicles that fully surround the employee, but half-size ones that offer employees some privacy when working. This style is flexible because it can accommodate many employee preferences. Lower cubicles offer a more open environment with increased communication for employees that value this, while the floor plan also accommodates those who prefer to sit at their desks and focus solely on their work.

Team-based structure

A team-based structure may be useful for offices that divide tasks and projects into groups. This floor plan provides an open layout, but people who work on the same team have meetings room, desks, and other equipment that's grouped together. Team-based offices allow employees to have conversations and brainstorming sessions while also increasing productivity by grouping together people working on related tasks.

Benefits of an open office space

Having an open office space can offer numerous benefits for the workplace and employees. Here are some of the most important advantages of open office spaces:

Encourages teamwork

One of the major benefits of an open office space is that it can help team members work together more easily. Teamwork can help by improving brainstorming, fostering healthy interpersonal work relationships, and allowing the team to complete projects more quickly. Encouraging teamwork can also lead to happier employees and higher overall quality of work.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Allows for ease of movement

Open office floor plans can also allow employees to move around the workspace more easily than in traditional office spaces. Having a less cluttered environment can make it easier for employees to circulate around the office, which can improve the speed of office communication and make employees feel happier and more relaxed at work. Open office floor plans can help reduce workplace stress by offering employees more flexibility and autonomy than traditional office spaces.

More comfortable work environment

Another way to increase productivity at work is to create a setting that can make each employee feel most comfortable. An open office plan can accommodate a broad variety of work habits and preferences for employees. Whether it's being mobile while working, sitting on a couch or armchair, or working from a standing desk, it's easier to design an office that works with all these different styles when using an open concept design. An open concept work environment is typically more comfortable for most employees, and the lack of physical barriers often means a bright, well-lit workspace.

More useable space

In a traditional office setting, desks and cubicle walls make take up most of the space. This leaves less space for other items that can improve the work environment. Removing physical barriers can make the space more visually appealing while also leading to a more available workroom, which can increase productivity and morale. Completing most of the work on laptops or tablets can also reduce the need for desks, freeing additional space.

Related: How to Organize an Office (With Instructions and Benefits)

Increased employee satisfaction

Having happy employees can increase productivity, reduce employee turnover, and improve the reputation of the business. People usually want to work in a place where both they and their coworkers can feel happy and satisfied. An open office plan may increase employee satisfaction by allowing each employee to work where and how they prefer. It can also help to improve communication and build a stronger work community, which can further increase the team's productivity.

Keeps the business modern

Appearances and reputation are also typically important for businesses, as many people look for workplaces and organizations that can adapt and change along with industry trends. Many modern and large-scale companies now use open office concepts. Responding to workplace innovations and employee expectations can show that a business understands its market and values its employees.

Cost-effective

Choosing an open office floor plan is often more cost-effective than building individual workstations. Eliminating the need for workstations for each employee can save money on infrastructure, desks, office chairs, and other items required for separate office spaces. While furnishing an open office space can involve some initial costs, it can save the business money if executed correctly.

Challenges of an open office space

While open office layouts can have many benefits, there are also some potential challenges with these types of floor plans. Here are some of the most common challenges of open offices:

Lack of privacy

One downside of an open office concept is that there's little privacy. With no individual workspaces, there's usually no place for people to work on more sensitive projects or complete their work without coworkers around them. Some people prefer to work on their projects in private, and may only reach their usual productivity level in a more traditional office environment. You can create a few designated workspaces that people may book so that they can work in private in an otherwise open office.

Can be noisy

While an open concept office can increase communication and brainstorming, it can also create more noise. This can be distracting for some people, which can affect the quality of their work significantly. Employees that find the noise distracting can use noise-cancelling headphones or the business may assign quiet zones or times to accommodate those employees. Accommodating as many work styles as possible can help the office improve its teamwork and productivity.

Can increase social anxiety

While some people enjoy talking to their coworkers and engaging socially with crowds, others may prefer a more secluded work environment. An open-concept office is best for highly social teams, but may not increase productivity for employees with social anxiety. One practical solution is to create an open-concept office with a few private workspaces for those that wish to use them. This can allow some employees to choose whether they want to work in the more communicative main office space or move to a private room to focus on their work in quiet.

Increase in the spread of germs

Open offices thrive on having no barriers, shared resources, and close conversations, but these conditions can also increase the spread of germs. Employees may talk more often while standing closer together than in traditional offices, which can help respiratory illnesses spread more quickly. Having a personal workspace can also make it easier to keep your resources clean. An open-concept office is a large, connected space, which may mean less frequent cleaning of simple desktop items.

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