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Seed has space planned and designed workspaces all over the country for our online interior design clients. After a client recently asked us to analyze our data to examine regional patterns in the ratio of open space to enclosed offices. We uncovered that, interestingly enough, there is no pattern.
Some of our clients do not want open space in their offices because they don’t think their people will respond to it. Those that don’t want open offices are not able to accommodate as many people, no matter how small we design their private offices.
Others have gone the opposite route and created vast, multi-use spaces, and still others have found they are comfortable in the middle with a smaller open area and some offices.
There doesn’t seem to be a regional pattern to it either, it varies from workspace to workspace… even within the same city.
Though if there were a trend to uncover, it does appear that openness to an open plan is growing. In the last 18 months or so we have seen a shift and more clients are embracing the idea of open offices in every region.
A reason for this could be that the focus has shifted away from “open offices” to creating more “flexible offices” (which often require openness to be flexible in). Flexible offices offer the advantages of an open office plan while addressing most of the cons.
Pros for an open office plan include:
- Improved communication
- Higher energy
- If designed right, they’re just plain cool. A factor that helps with recruiting and impresses clients.
Cons for an open office plan include:
- Distraction (which can affect productivity)
- Lack of privacy
- Even spread of germs
The trend of open offices is growing because the pros (mainly cost-effectiveness and recruiting) outweigh the cons.
The cons of an open office can also be mitigated through good design
Designing flexibility into a space is key. For example, breaking up the space by use and adding flexible space and desired amenities (sit-stand desks, lounge seating, coffee bars, private call rooms, small meeting rooms, etc.) is necessary so users can can escape to these areas when needed.
Adding semi-private spaces, tiny offices that are open on one side, is another idea that is gaining traction. Having a small footprint it’s easy to fit several of these semi-private spaces into a plan.
It’s important when designing an office to plan not just for the way we work today, but for the future as well. In the case of offices that may not take to an open plan today, we encourage designing in flexibility either with movable glass walls or “pods” of office walls that can be taken down to open the space up down the road when needed.
Our advice to any new client today, regardless of region, remains the same and (where cost-effectiveness and recruiting are key) we encourage the use of flexible/open space to fit more people into less square footage and for the opportunities it offers to create dynamic, high-energy workspaces.
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