Open plan offices are more common than not nowadays but there’s plenty of debate about whether open plan designs are better than closed offices. Whilst open plan offices have some amazing advantages, they also have some significant disadvantages.

Advantages of Open Plan Offices

Promotes Collaboration and Teamwork

Open plan offices don’t tend to face as many communication barriers as closed offices do. The open space allows colleagues to discuss projects, bounce ideas off each other, and organise tasks efficiently. This ease of communication enables creative ideas to flow through departments, gathering ideas and input from multiple perspectives.

Along with the creative side, the lack of communicational barriers helps to increase the organisation of departments. Employees from all areas of the business get an idea of the bigger picture, allowing more efficient decisions to be made.

Flexible on Design

Open Office

Open plan offices offer plenty of flexibility when it comes to design and layout. Furnishing an open plan office gives you a completely blank canvas to work with. Desks and furniture can be arranged however you wish, shelves and storage units can be placed wherever, and there’s plenty of free wall space for livening the room up with décor!

Cost-Effective

Open plan offices are often much more cost-effective than closed offices. Open plan layouts don’t require as much construction, utilities or office equipment and the larger rooms are usually more energy efficient resulting in lower costing utility bills.

Disadvantages of Open Plan Offices

Higher Noise Levels

Multiple people in one room making phone calls, talking to each other, typing, moving, and generally doing their day-to-day office work can quickly lead to uncomfortably loud noise levels. Even the noises that seem small and innocent can build up and cause big problems. The high noise levels can make concentration difficult for employees, leading to poor work and overdue tasks.   

Lack of Privacy

Reduced privacy is one of the most noticeable disadvantages of open plan offices. Everything is out in the open for co-workers to see and hear, at all times. The feeling of being watched, overheard, or judged can cause people to feel conscious about making phone calls and having work or personal conversations. People making or taking phone calls whilst sat right next to others can also be very disruptive and distracting for others.

A lack of privacy can also affect people socially. Co-workers may not socialise on breaks due to the lack of privacy and the disruptive effect their conversations have on others. It also makes personal calls almost impossible to make whilst in the office.

Reduced Productivity

People’s productivity levels are heavily influenced by outside factors such as noise, comfort, lighting, and more. Unfortunately for open plan offices, a lot of these negative factors are very apparent. Due to the lack of barriers and division, noise levels can be particularly high and the lack of privacy can cause a discomforting environment.

Increased Stress

open office stress

With the high noise levels, a lack of privacy and reduced productivity, stress levels can skyrocket. People can become overwhelmed with overdue tasks, have trouble concentrating on producing high-quality work, and experience irritability and maybe even resentment towards their colleagues that make focusing more difficult.

How to Improve Open Plan Offices: Office Acoustics  

If you already have an open plan office it’s likely that you are struggling with many of the issues that other open plan offices face – high noise levels, increased stress, and difficulty concentrating. If this is the case, there are ways you can create a more productive work environment.

Acoustic Screens

improving open office acoustics: acoustic screens

Acoustic screens are a great way to tackle both privacy and noise issues. Acoustic screens and room dividers give the space a sense of division without destroying the communicative benefits the open plan layout provides. The extra layer of privacy and quiet removes some of the stress that workers are facing in open plan offices, leading to a more productive working environment.

Desk Dividers

improving office acoustics: desk dividers

Desk dividers are great for giving employees an extra bit of privacy as well as reducing desk-to-desk noise levels. As they’re relatively small and don’t take up much extra space, they’re perfect if your office is on the smaller side. As a bonus they make great pinboards for employees to pin notes or photos to.

Meeting Pods

improving office acoustics: meeting pods and booths

Meeting pods and phone booths are incredibly useful pieces of furniture in open plan offices. The booths allow employees to make phone calls in private and without disrupting the colleagues around them. Larger 2–4 person meeting pods are perfect for smaller or virtual meetings.

Want to Improve your Open Plan Office?

If you’re struggling with high noise levels or privacy issues in your open plan office, we can help. For advice, guidance, or to purchase any of the products mentioned, please feel free to get in touch with a member of the Muffle team and we’ll be more than happy to help.