Are Open Plan Offices Really Better for UK Businesses?


Are Open Plan Offices Really Better for UK Businesses?

Posted by Kima Office Furniture on


With all the latest talk in our blog about office productivity and design, one question that might still come up is whether to opt for an open plan office design. There is a common misconception that open plan offices breed more productivity, but is this true in reality? 

The idea of open plan spaces in office design originated in 1965 Germany. The view was that by having open spaces with all employees accessible would lead to improved morale, productivity and working relationships between bosses and workers. 

Studies Point Towards Negative Feedback

However, despite the common belief that open plan offices are better what’s the truth? In reality, various studies have actually given mixed opinions. For example, in 1998, a study by the British Journal of Psychology published the statement that lots of background noise from employees would adversely affect the productivity of a fellow worker. 

That leads on to the assumption that perhaps open plan offices might not be such a good idea after all. The study paid particular attention to the fact that a noisy background really makes it hard for office workers to concentrate on tasks involving calculations and memory. 

Perhaps You Should Reconsider Your Plans

So with that in mind, perhaps you should reconsider your company’s plans for introducing an open plan office layout? It might actually lead to a reduction in worker productivity and might not even be that comfortable. 

Further commentary on this debate was brought to the table by Professor Alexi Marmot, an architect at UCL University College London on the BBC website. The article we link to is worth reading (takes about 10 minutes) but highlights include the professor saying that from the open office perspective, although too much noise is distracting, no noise at all brings added problems such as deathly quiet atmospheres. 

He went on to add that some employees would also struggle in this working environment as they may wish to have private conversations and might not feel that possible in an open plan office design. 

In addition to these expert opinions, another factor worth considering is the lack of daylight that open plan offices offer. An article in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management shows that open office environments can even lead to employee health issues such as blood pressure being higher and stress levels increasing. 

Our Conclusion on Open Plan Layouts

To conclude, it’s been found that employees under the age of thirty do prefer open plan. This is because they can benefit from better relationships with more senior colleagues, letting them learn and progress quicker. But, the overall view of open plan being better certainly needs to looked at from a company perspective, as it would appear they aren’t always to the benefit of your business. 

We will leave the last word to a Swedish study from 2009 which found that employees were at their happiest when working in more private office spaces, such as cubicles and closed door rooms. 

So if you are thinking about making the switch to open plan. Just take stock for a moment and consider that it might actually not serve your company’s interests as much as you might believe.