flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

Do open offices work?

Office Buildings

Do open offices work?


By Karen Thomas | LPA | July 5, 2017

Whether for a team of 20 or 200, if today’s professionals are not currently working in an open office environment, a change is likely on the horizon. Far from a fleeting fad, the open office layout is increasingly being adopted in the workplace and isn’t going away anytime soon. While there are immense benefits to this transparent, collaborative layout, executives and designers are fielding no shortage of concerns from staff. With Corporate America on fire about this issue, it begs the question—Do open offices work?

In stark contrast to the high-walled cubicles and closed, private offices of the past, the open office environment became popularized over the last decade. It serves as a strategic move to optimize office real estate and increase collaboration and innovation. By bringing teams closer together, creating more coworking space and diverse workstyle settings, the concept lends to a more efficient floor plan. With the changing expectations of young professionals, an open layout helps companies maintain a competitive advantage to attract and retain a wide range of employee demographics.

 

 

Critics of this planning concept find it difficult to stay focused—citing a lack of visual and auditory privacy, resulting in heightened distractions and uninvited interruptions. With the potential for a decrease in productivity, it’s paramount for executives and their designers to consider ways to create balance in an open office. An effective commercial design will:

 

Mix It Up

Provide distinct spaces for both heads-down work and collaborative team areas. The placement of the open collaborative spaces need to be well thought-out, away from dedicated workstations, and offset by ample space for quiet, concentrated tasks. Give professionals more conference space, quiet rooms and phone booths—a variety of spaces that balance the open office environment.

 

Create Zones

Create zones and neighborhoods that have their own personality and purpose. Break up the space using accent paint, branding, partitions and furniture that give people a sense of place. Glass partitions are a great way to create zones, while keeping things transparent, but the material must be used wisely. Be mindful not to create a fishbowl effect, where users feel watched or distracted by neighboring teams. Adding translucent film is a simple yet cost-effective way of creating a sense of visual privacy in these highly transparent spaces.

 

Optimize Workspace

Designing the appropriate dedicated workspace for the individual work process is key. Rather than the frequently specified open benching style desks, we have been testing the use of adjustable height desks with 12- to 24-inch-high tackable acoustical privacy screens to help define workspaces. This flexible design gives staff the ability to customize their workspace based on their work process, create visual and acoustical privacy between neighboring desks and departments when needed, while still having access to daylight and views.

 

Consider Acoustics

The issue of proper acoustics in a workplace environment is something that needs to be addressed head on. Rather than an afterthought, acoustics must be part of the initial design concept. By balancing hard and soft surfaces, and strategically placing materials to absorb or deflect sound, professionals will be less distracted by far-reaching conversations. Open collaboration spaces need to be protected from primary work areas, to minimize disruption. Encouraging the use of private meeting rooms for discussions of three or more people also helps on a cultural level by building a level of respect for coworker’s privacy.

 

 

As technology and innovation drives people to be more mobile, it’s becoming easier than ever for teams to get away from their desks to collaborate and spur creativity. By considering these design concepts that introduce balance to an open office environment, employees can be both inspired by an open and visually stimulating, collaborative workplace, while maintaining their productivity and sanity.

More from Author

LPA | Aug 22, 2022

Less bad is no longer good enough

As we enter the next phase of our fight against climate change, I am cautiously optimistic about our sustainable future and the design industry’s ability to affect what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) calls the biggest challenge of our generation.

LPA | Aug 9, 2022

Designing healthy learning environments

Studies confirm healthy environments can improve learning outcomes and student success. 

LPA | Jul 6, 2022

The power of contextual housing development

Creating urban villages and vibrant communities starts with a better understanding of place, writes LPA's Matthew Porreca. 

LPA | Mar 21, 2022

Finding the ROI for biophilic design

It takes more than big windows and a few plants to create an effective biophilic design.

LPA | Apr 28, 2021

Did the campus design work?

A post-occupancy evaluation of the eSTEM Academy provides valuable lessons for future campuses.

LPA | Feb 23, 2021

Rising costs push developers to consider modular construction

The mainstreaming of modular construction offers a cost-effective and creative solution to develop new types of urban developments.

LPA | May 20, 2020

From shopping mall to eSports supercenter

An aging shopping mall is reimagined as an eSports-focused mixed-use facility, creating new links between the community and the growing eSports industry.

LPA | Feb 1, 2019

Designing a net zero aquatic center

Buildings can be designed to cut consumption and operate more efficiently, but the pools always make it difficult to achieve substantial savings.

LPA | Jan 2, 2019

Rebuild or renovate?

With some facilities, a little creativity can save money and salvage a building worth saving. 

LPA | Aug 3, 2018

Seismic deadlines approaching for healthcare companies

California hospitals can save money with a holistic approach to retrofit issues.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category




halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021

 



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: