Why are some Companies Un-Installing their Open Plan Office?

Is the open plan office now a thing of the past?
Have we taken the wrong track thinking that openness fosters fertile collaboration and company bonding across the board?
For some companies, open plan isn’t working.
They’re uninstalling their open offices and putting up walls again.

Here’s 5 reasons why they say they’re doing it:

  1. Many open plan offices don’t actually work with everybody interacting.
    In some cases, they’re finding the more introverted employees are retreating to private spaces wherever they can.
    Generally those staff members who are extroverts tend to like open plan, but introverts, on the other hand, can be made to feel anxious and awkward in the presence of other people all the time.
  2. Collaboration in the open plan environment is often unproductive and lacking substance.
    Because of lack of true meeting room privacy, workers are often hampered by the earshot of their “neighbours”,  in discussions and even when using the meeting area.
    When a private conversation is required, designated open meeting hubs are often within hearing distance of those who shouldn’t be party to that discussion.
    Phone call conversations suffer a similar fate. The exchange of great ideas can be severely hampered.
  3. Many workers are more easily distracted by trivial talk or non essential tasks and are therefore less productive.
    An open plan office can be a hive for unhelpful or even damning stories to spread around the workplace which damages office relations.
    Open offices are sometimes accused as "gossip gardens" where information, true or false, is fertilised and keeps growing.
    Because everyone is clustered in the one space, attention can be easily diverted to non-essential tasks like office gossip.
  4. Noise distraction.
    Open-plan can be big on noise and visual distractions.
    Being able to cut out those impediments and focus on the task at hand is difficult for many employees.
    Since large groups of colleagues are in the one space, there are people working, talking, eating and spending their breaks doing a number of things at any one time, which makes it very hard to focus.
    Many workers now use noise cancelling ear phones to help them to concentrate.
  5. Infection Spread and Employee Absenteeism.
    Diseases spread much more easily in an open-plan office, leading to employee absenteeism, especially in peak flu periods of the year.
    “Workplace transmission“ is a significant factor in the spread of infection in the open plan office.
    The concept of Hot Desking, in particular, encourages transmission more readily.
    It puts workers unnecessarily at risk of catching an infection.
    In a more closed situation, office walls, and to a lesser extent, partitions, decrease the chance of this spread.
    Worker absenteeism is a very significant factor in the drop in productivity for a company.

So, in some business fitouts, the walls are going up again.
Good for some and not for others!

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