Is open-plan the future for office spaces?
An increasing number of businesses are opting to construct open-plan offices, as they seek improved collaboration between employees, it has been claimed.
Writing for the London Evening Standard, Susannah Butter explained that the likes of Facebook and the BBC are changing the layout within their offices, bringing executives and the general workforce into the same space.
She noted that when George Entwistle became BBC director-general earlier this month, he refused his own office in favour of a desk in an open-plan area of Broadcasting House.
And over in the States, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg commissioned what has been described as “the largest open-plan office in the world”.
He said the idea is to make the perfect engineering space – one giant room that fits thousands of people, all close enough to collaborate.
As well as enabling people to communicate more easily and work together better, Ms Butter suggested that such office spaces may help reduce business costs.
“Less space is needed, people can share equipment and the space is easier to heat and cool, making open-plan the greener option,” she noted.
However, companies sacrifice the element of privacy – meaning some individuals could be constantly interrupted by of “ringing phones, loud typing, clicking heels and gossipy conversations”.
Ms Butter suggested that companies going down this route may need to offer a number of “quiet spaces” – such as meeting and training rooms – nearby.
“Managers, too, need a space in which to talk away from eavesdropping colleagues,” she noted.
“It would be ill-advised to fire someone in front of the entire staff.”
The challenge for employers is to enjoy the benefits of open plan without making it more difficult for people to do their jobs.
In this sense, something of a balancing act may be required.