4 drawbacks of the open space office – and how to fix them

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
4 Drawbacks of the Open Space Office – And How to Fix Them

4 drawbacks of the open space office – and how to fix them

If you’ve worked in an office before, you’ve probably worked in an open space office. After all, they are extremely popular, the health benefits they offer are well documented, and they allow a company to design flexible workspaces for their employees.

But for all the hoorah about the open space office, there are some noticeable drawbacks. And when we say drawbacks, we aren’t saying that they are inherently bad. Rather, that there are several often overlooked things that you’ll want to consider.

If you work at a startup that is looking to create an open concept office, an older company that is looking to update, or you are just genuinely interested in this type of office, you’ll want to read this article so you don’t make these basic mistakes.

1. An open space office is loud

open space office table and coffee

Look, we work in workspace design, and we’ve seen some good open space offices and many bad ones. Good ones are positive places to work, workers are happy, and productivity is at an all-time high.

Yet, it’s always the poorly designed ones that you hear about the most. When it comes to an open concept office, noise is a huge problem. Because the entire office is open, noise travels freely through it.

Remember, everyone works differently. Some jobs are best completed in groups, while others require focus and a quiet environment.

The Solution?

Prioritize acoustics. Install materials that will absorb sounds in the office. Things like carpet, acoustic wall panels, plants, curtains, and soft furnishings will improve acoustics in your workspace. By doing this, you will still benefit from all the advantages of an open office. And you’ll create a space where your team can work well alongside each other without constant distraction.

2. Lack of privacy

Privacy is another area where the open space office struggles. The solution here isn’t to wall the place up, after all, we’ve spent the last 100 years working in offices like that.

Instead, we need to look at unique ways to create privacy.

Here’s the truth.

No one wants to listen to Jim from accounting’s weekend plans. One way most companies fix this problem is by creating private booths where employees can make calls. These booths are acoustically sound, meaning that the details of someone’s conversation stays private. So in Jim’s case, no one has to know that he’s a huge Spice Girls fan.

Another method is creating communal quiet lounges where employees can work when they need a break from the hustle and bustle of the main office hub.

Even though open concept offices are all the rage, your employees still want privacy from time to time. This can be done through smart space-planning, ensuring we avoid circulation behind someone’s back, as well as by positioning work desks in such a way that one does not feel like they are being watched by a colleague or a boss all day long. Another important solution is to create dedicated private spaces where your team members can make phone calls or work on confidential materials. By addressing these challenges, you are committing to creating an office space that is both functional and comfortable. And in our experience, this is something your employees will really appreciate.

3. Too ghot, too cold

We all experience temperature differently, and we’ve all held secret grudges towards the individual that turns the air conditioning off during those hot summer days at the office.

Here’s the truth, an open space office takes longer to heat and cool. The reasons for this are pretty self-explanatory.

While there are no easy fixes for this, we often recommend that companies simply let their employees adjust accordingly during specific seasons. This may result in wearing warmer clothing in the winter, or something more drastic like installing individual heaters in each employee's work area to help them stay warm.

4. Hard to focus

It can be hard to focus when a lot is going on around you. In an open space office, you can see what everyone is doing all the time. While some people love this, for others, it can lead to a loss of focus and productivity, or it can even feel stressful.

But there’s hope.

Something as simple as creating a few quiet rooms, solo work areas, or dedicated collaboration rooms can boost focus by isolating noise and distractions.

Open space office meeting room for EIT Food

An open space office doesn’t have to be a chaotic experience. With the right design in mind, you can create dedicated areas where collaboration, solo work, relaxation, and socializing take place. By creating these areas, you will enable your employees to socialize when they want to, but also provide them with the ability to work in peace and quiet when they need it most.

And when you achieve this balance, you’ll have an office that is healthy by design, and one that your employees love to work in.

There are solutions to open space office problems

All the major problems we listed can be solved. Here at Space Refinery, we support the open concept office movement because we’ve seen the real benefits they provide. Whether a company is trying to modernize, improve their company culture, or design an office that has a little something for everyone, an open space office provides you with a lot of flexibility.

If you are interested in learning more about open concept offices and how they can benefit your business, get in touch with us today.

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