Productivity at work

Open Plan vs Closed Plan – What Works Best?

By wizu | 25 October 2020

Which is better, the open plan office or the closed office layout? For decades, the open plan office has been the layout of choice. It’s still one of the most common layouts chosen by many businesses. The reason is the open office is seen as a better way to increase productivity, encourage collaboration, improve company communications, and more. It’s usually also the cheaper option, which is a huge benefit to the company budget. 

But is the closed office plan really that bad? What about people who need a quiet area in which to focus and work? Is the closed office so restrictive? 

Actually, there are benefits to both the open and closed office layout. We’ll review some of the pros and cons of both office designs, and then consider if it’s possible to have both in a more balanced workplace. 

What is an Open Office Layout? 

An open office is just that—one large space with no enclosed rooms or spaces. Everyone sits in one large open area. It’s one large space without no walls or obstacles, which is meant to make it easier to move around, change the floor plan as needed, and more. 

In an open office layout, people can see each other, making collaboration easier and faster. And office equipment is in the same room with the employees. 

Benefits of an Open Office Layout

Improved Camaraderie: interpersonal connections and communication is easier and stronger when people work together in one area. Not only that, but loyalty, trust, and accountability also improve in this type of office layout. 

Collaboration tends to be easier and more spontaneous when everyone is together in one place. Improved camaraderie allows this to happen. 

  • Information flow: in an open office plan, information flow is more efficient. This is because there are no walls or barriers between people. 
  • More Interactions & teamwork: because collaboration is easier, teamwork is more effective in an open office. This type of office is usually less formal, so people are more likely to interact. 

In addition, employees may seek one another out with questions or solutions. The open plan provides a large area where everyone can effectively work together in one place. 

  • Cost-Effective solution: open plan offices usually don’t require much construction. There are fewer walls, for one thing. These larger rooms are also more energy efficient, which results in lower costs on utility bills. 

Open plans also keep office equipment costs down; this is because more people can have access to the same printer, for instance. There’s no need to buy a separate machine for each department. So, the company saves money. 

Cons of the Open Office Plan

Just as there are advantages, you’ll always find disadvantages which is the case with the open office plan. It has many benefits, but here are some of the cons to consider with this type of office design. 

  • Harder to focus: some people find an open plan office to be an extremely loud, distracting place to work. Everyone is different and some employees need a quiet place to focus and be productive. 
  • Less privacy: there’s less privacy in an open office layout, which can be a problem if you work in an industry that needs to meet security compliance regulations. 
  • Spread of illness: another major problem with the open office plan is that illnesses spread faster and easier in this type of environment. Airborne illnesses are a real problem, such as the flu. If someone comes to work sick, then the illness can quickly spread, leaving the company short-handed. This a major concern, especially at busy times of the year. 

What is a Closed Plan Office? 

A closed plan layout is sometimes also referred to as a private office layout. In this type of office design, you’ll find cubicles and panels are common. These are used to create separate work areas for each employee. This concept can also include private offices, areas for entire departments, and more. 

The closed office plan was very popular but has in recent years has been left behind as more businesses moved to the open plan layout. 

Pros of a Closed Office Layout

Here are some of the advantages of a closed office design: 

  • Privacy for each employee: in this type of layout, employees have more privacy and more control over their own area. They have their own space and have the focus they need, without distractions. 
  • Distraction-free workspace: there are no disturbances to distract employees from their work. They can work without interruptions and have more focus, which increases their productivity. 
  • Increased creativity for employees: for those who are creative, having a peaceful, calm workspace is needed so they can focus. This is how they obtain the best results. They have their own space and can work as they choose. 
  • Lower amounts of communication: with a closed plan office, there will also be fewer opportunities for communication. This means employees won’t be able to stand around and gossip, but there’s also no talking that disrupts those who need a quiet place to get work done. 
  • Healthier employees: in a closed office layout, it’s more difficult for everyone to get sick with the flu or other airborne illnesses. There’s still a chance to spread an illness, especially is an employee comes to work sick. However, the chances of spreading are decreased when everyone has their own work area. 
  • Increases concentration: this type of office plan also increases the concentration levels of employees. This is due to having their own space, without all the disruption of an open plan office. 
  • Increased productivity: an employee’s mind is freed from distractions, which leads to an increase in productivity. They can concentrate better on work. 

Cons of a Closed Office Plan

Here are some cons of a closed office plan to also consider: 

  • Less supervision of employees
  • Less communication between employees
  • More expensive to create
  • Requires large amounts of space
  • Less camaraderie amongst employees

Combination of Open and Closed Office Plans

Many companies have found that the best solution for their office layout is a combination of both the open and closed office designs. For this to be successful, it’s necessary to create quiet zones where people who need a calm, peaceful environment can work effectively. 

This can be achieved through a combination of an open office plan with privacy pods, more intimate seating areas in a quiet zone, creating areas of personal space (similar to a closed office layout).

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