Are Open Office Designs Fading?

That’s what some experts are saying. In an open office design, there are no cubicles, modules or other partitioning walls. Rather, all of the desks, chairs and furniture are arranged in an open environment. Such designs offer a few notable benefits, such as ease of setup and the ability for workers to communicate with one another more easily. However, open office designs also have some drawbacks, which could negate these positive benefits.

One of the drawbacks associated with open office designs is increased exposure to workplace distractions. Just think: if you’re required to work in a large, open room with a dozen or more other workers, you’ll constantly hear and see everything they do. This creates a major distraction that can deter you from the task at hand, lowering your overall productivity and efficiency. But working in an office where there are individual cubicles or modules may overcome this problem, eliminating common workplace distractions like employee gossip.

According to a study conducted by the architecture firm Gensler, workers spent 54% of their time working on individual projects in 2013, which is up from 48% in 2008. What does this mean exactly? Well, it indicates that open office designs are slowly fading, as workers need their own personal space in which to perform their tasks.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that open offices are dead. Rather, there’s a growing trend towards the use of hybrid office designs featuring a semi-open environment with partitioned spaces for individual workers. Fortune Magazine explained this trend, saying next-generation office designs feature “cubicle banks with truly open floor plans.” These designs are complimented with communal areas in which workers can gather and converse amongst themselves, as well as sound-proof rooms for distraction-free work.

Some office managers assume that cubicles are a thing of the past. While there are many alternatives to the traditional cubicle, it remains a fundamental component of a modern office. Cubicles embrace the individual work environment, providing workers with their own personal space and privacy.

Does this mean you should avoid using an open design in your office? There’s really no easy answer to this question, as no two companies have the exact same goals and objectives. With that said, there’s an undeniable trend towards the use of hybrid office designs that combine both individual cubicles and modules, in an open environment. Such designs offer the best of both worlds, providing workers with individual working spaces yet still maintaining an open design.