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Open-Concept Offices: Yay or Nay?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the open concept has infiltrated homes everywhere and they aren’t likely going away anytime soon. Walls are coming down to make way for expansive, less-restrictive mega-rooms, where each dedicated area seamlessly flows into the next. And it’s not just in the home. Thanks largely to the surge of startup companies (many out in Silicon Valley, where real estate is a prime, budgets are budding, and new business ventures are a dime a dozen), the movement has made its way into the office.

Like any situation, there are pros and cons when it comes to open-concept offices, so if it’s an idea you’ve been toying with for your own company, take a moment to consider these before jumping on the bandwagon and make sure it’s really for you before committing.

Con: Lack of Privacy
Cubicles may not provide the utmost amount of privacy, but those three medium-height walls tend to give employees a sense of having their own space apart from everyone else. Take away those walls and some people will no doubt start to feel claustrophobic … in a different sense; there’s a certain amount of anxiety that can arise when a person feels they don’t have a place to (for lack of a better word) escape to.

Pro: Lack of Privacy
On the flip side, when everyone is in a shared work space, you’re less likely to find people who are slacking off. (Or, more accurately, if there are people not pulling their weight, it’s much more apparent.) It’s a lot harder to spend time on the phone, text friends, or surf the web when what you’re doing is on display for all your colleagues to see. In a sense, everyone in this type of environment keeps each other accountable; effectively, your staff polices themselves.

Pro: Increased Collaboration
Proponents of open offices will defend this notion until they are blue in the face. While in-office friendships may not be what they used to be, the lack of physical barriers can also lead to a breakdown of communication barriers and encourage your staff to engage with each other (on a business level) more frequently than when closed off for most of the day.

Con: Too Many Distractions
Increased collaboration may be great from a brainstorming perspective, but that increased chatter (though work-related), with no place to retreat from it, could also prove to be counterproductive for those who at least need the option of relative quiet for at least part of the day, so in this respect, that bullpen design works against productivity.

Pro: It’s Cost Effective
If the bottom line is your primary concern, this may be the way to go. The fact is, with the open concept, you can fit a lot more people into a much smaller area, which translates to less rent paid. Plus, you don’t have the added expense of purchasing cubicles.

There are some pretty convincing points to be considered from both sides. Whether it ultimately works in favor of your company, by increasing efficiency and trimming the fat on that budget spend of yours (two things we’re extremely passionate about over here), really comes down to whether you think it would be a fit for you, given this information.

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