The modern open office floor plan, which many companies have chosen to adopt over the last 15 years, has proven to create more problems than it solves. Open floor plans were meant to be an innovative way to promote teamwork and collaboration, but in practice they foster an environment which actually limits collaboration. Businesses are beginning to realize that their open floor plan is not helping the growth or productivity of their company.
While the open floor plan was projected to increase face-to-face employee communication, a study done in 2018 discovered that it had the opposite effect. In the open office floor plan, direct confrontation was found to decrease by 73% between employees and instead online communication increased by 67%. Both visual and audial distractions have contributed to this statistic due to its effects on concentration.
Productivity is also negatively impacted by distractions. A study conducted by Steelcase and Ipsos found that 86 minutes of production time per day was lost in offices due to noise. Noise levels are only heighted in open floor plans and employees are constantly exposed to disruptive sounds such as phone calls and loud coworkers. Visual distractions including movement, bright paintings, and cluttered desks were noted to hurt productivity as well. By promoting an overload of visual stimulation, open floor plans cause a “distraction of cognitive processing”. This contributes to a lack of overall productivity in the workplace.
Additionally, open floor plans have proven to be a major source of job dissatisfaction. The University of Sydney found that a lack of sound privacy was the biggest complaint for employees with an open office plan. Furthermore, Steelcase and Ipsos determined that 95% of surveyed workers stated that “working privately was important to them”. These factors cause employees to become unmotivated and stressed in the workplace and can ultimately lead to their departure.
Cost Effective Solutions
So you’ve already built out an open office. Now what? How can you mitigate these issues? While an open floor plan can be damaging to a business, its issues can be reduced with a few simple solutions.
Noise Reduction: To improve noise, sound absorbing materials can be utilized. Both carpeting and plant walls are soft and sound absorbent and will keep noise from traveling throughout an office. Additionally, several office users and landlords have utilized FilzFelt, a customizable, industrial grade felt that reduces noise, creates movable walls, and adds artistic design to a workplace.
Increase Privacy: Temporary wall barriers can be stationed and repositioned as necessary in order to block out visuals, as well as dampen auditory distractions. Large chairs and filing cabinets can also be strategically placed to create barriers and help with privacy.
Minimize Distractions: Another solution is to construct a “quiet section” in the office, which gives employees the option to escape distractions. A designated meeting area can also be created to promote collaboration. This will allow for some separation between spaces with different uses. These solutions can help decrease distractions, while increasing both productivity and employee satisfaction.