Having worked both behind closed office doors, within a cubicle and in open work spaces, I believe strongly that the best work environment for the best work outcome is the open-plan office. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. If you’re a manager, you see your team.
This helps you understand who they are, how they work, and no, this isn’t about policing. It’s about really using behavior to understand what makes people tick and how to motivate (and lead).
2. If you’re being managed, you get to see your manager work.
In the days past, apprenticeship was something most people in the labor force had experience with. Now, it still happens, but it tends to happen in much more specific professions. There’s a reason why medical residents follow physicians around. There’s no substitute from seeing how your manager talks, works, and behaves.
3. It increases the chances of mentorship.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you can’t get a job if you work in a cubicle, or behind closed doors, in an office. But I think it does mean it’s less likely you’ll get out as much. Part of the way that natural mentorship relationships develop is through, well, interaction. And interacting by phone or digitally isn’t the same thing as seeing someone -- even from across the room. The sheer number of times and opportunities you have to run into someone just multiply when you’re in an open office plan setting.
4. If you don’t like noise, you can put on a headset. Or just duck out.
One of the most common complaints lodged against open-plan offices is that introverts or people who don’t work well with a lot of background noise around them are distracted from doing work that requires a lot of concentrated focus. But nothing about working in an open-plan space means you can’t tune out with some noise-cancelling headphones or popping on your favorite zen soundtrack to tune out your neighbor’s phone calls.
5. It’s democratic without undermining hierarchy.
While work isn’t democratic and probably shouldn’t be, having decision-makers and management structures can translate into rigid hierarchies and leadership that is removed from what’s happening on the ground. Just visualize, for a moment, the CEO office in the corner of a skyscraper tower, and you’ll instantly understand why simply giving that CEO the corner desk (sans walls) changes the tone of company culture and makes it feel much more that employees have a say.
6. It prevents leaders from getting out of touch.
While Fairygodboss is still a young and small team, I’ve seen leaders of much larger organizations get quite distant from the people who are making things happen on the ground.
These people work in sales, customer service, the back-office and see important things about the health and direction of the business that can be missed if you’re too far removed from the guts of operations.
7. It saves money.
Simply put, you can put more bodies in an open space if you don’t have standard layout cubicle pods that don’t account for the cost per square foot of real estate being different in Omaha versus San Francisco. You can can save on real estate and funnel that money into things that make your customers or employees happier.
8. It allows for more aesthetic design options.
If you don’t have offices and walls, suddenly an open-plan room can have desks configured in many different ways, central lighting options and artwork possibilities open up. You may consider these things nice-to-haves but they can improve morale among your team and also impress clients who visit your office.
9. Natural light has fewer barriers.
Assuming you started with workplace real estate that had windows and access to natural light, offices and cubicles obstruct it so that the further you move into the center of any given space, the less light there is. Open space offices let in the light for everyone!
10. Open work spaces fosters collaboration.
In this day and age, technology makes being physically present in the same location not nearly as pressing as it used to be. Skype, video calls and omnipresent chat rooms allow teams to be connected remotely and work flexibly. Therefore, getting together physically in one place requires more justification. Why get everyone together if you’re just going to put walls between them when they get there?
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