Thanks to the open-plan workspace, pioneered by global powerhouses like Google, Zappos and Facebook, many companies may be rethinking the practicality of the private office—thus shaking to the core traditional notions of professional prestige, authority and the American Dream of “making it” to the corner office or executive suite.
The open workspace is being widely imitated by those inside and even outside the tech industry who also want to disrupt, trailblaze and hopefully earn record stock prices. Even former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, took an unglamorous seat among his underlings in a City Hall “bullpen.”
Open plan offices balance cost efficiency with rapid growth. A company can save on real estate costs when an employee only gets 150 square feet in an open floor plan versus 225 with an office. Some companies can shed excess space, while others can use it as a better opportunity to expand.
Open offices can be a challenge for employees
There are a lot of benefits to open offices. However, well-documented drawbacks include:
- The lack of privacy to do work, deal with confidential business, or have in-depth conversations
- The inability to focus
- More sick days when germs are easier to spread
- Too much noise in immediate surroundings
- Employee stress from too much stimulation, preventing total focus
- The thin line between contributing to a conversation and eavesdropping
- The ease of interruption working out in the open
How offices might save employers money
Being innovative and edgy with an open-plan space might not make sense for every corporate culture. Yet going 100% office-less might be too drastic both for a company and its employees. Your company might still need an office or two because:
Certain roles need privacy
Corporate counsel deals with confidential information. HR managers discuss sensitive personnel matters, like salaries, terminations, and conflict between employees. And detail-oriented roles like programmers may not want to sit in the middle of daily office Nerf gun wars.
People still need quiet time
Even the most forward-thinking, socializing Millennials have deadlines they need to meet, and sometimes slipping on the headphones won’t cut it.
Lost productivity is expensive
American businesses lose $650 billion annually in output because of workplace distractions. Time is money—literally.
As any major workplace change, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What a company might save in rent, they may lose in employee sick days and insurance costs. What’s clear is that the “office for all” days of yesteryear are no longer efficient in this mobile, global day and age.