WORKPLACE / MAY. 31, 2014
version 8, draft 8

How To Know If Open Plan Is Right For Your Personality At Work

open plan

Is your office affecting the way you work? It may not be all in your head. If you're working in an open plan office, it might be time for a change.

Open plan is a type of design that makes use of a large room with partitions and cubicles. An effective open plan layout takes the needs of employees into consideration. This means adding extra elements such as rooms, plants and pantries to break up the tightly knit space. These components can make an open plan office feel more comfortable and less stressful.

Why is it controversial?

Due to the diverse nature of today’s offices, the effectiveness of an open plan design has been under scrutiny by large companies and psychologists. By implementing a “one-size-fits-all” office layout, employees are forced to compromise their ability to carry out tasks, which can bring down daily operations and output.

Because of its ability to cut costs during the initial launch of a company, CEOs, and business owners have a general liking towards an open plan setup. Managers who have their own private office are also favorable towards open plan because it allows them to oversee staff with minimal effort.

It is surprising to know that extroverts who thrive in social environments are not fond of open plan offices, as they are easily distracted by outside conversations and other loud noises. Some CEOs and business owners who link a poorly managed open plan design to high turnover rates and low productivity are also not fond of the layout.

Open plan isn’t for everyone

The negative aspects of an open plan layout include the following:

  • Research indicates that overall productivity and morale suffers in an open plan layout.
  • Noise levels become saturated and unmanageable.
  • Tight spaces has a negative effect on the personality of employees, forcing them to take breaks.
  • Turnover rates has been linked to workers who are unable to work properly in an open plan layout.

From my personal experience, open plan can negatively impact an office. Managers and bosses who isolate themselves in a private office, away from the other employees are blind to the internal culture developing in the building. When workers complain about noise levels, and lack of productivity, managers are unable to relate and reshuffle the desk arrangements, which can be refreshing, but does not solve the issues related to open plan. As a result, many talented employees leave an office with an open plan layout simply because it’s not conducive to work.

Psychological Effects Of Open Plan

The psychological effects of open plan are staggering. Increase in stress and frustration, mixed with open communication usually breeds rumors and cliques inside an office. Conflicts arise and are sometimes left unresolved, impacting long-term professional relationships.

Anxiety is also a common symptom that is associated with open plan layouts. This is due to tight spaces and lack of open areas. Many workers in an open plan feel like they are always being driven to work harder instead of being motivated. Exposure to these emotions on a daily basis can result in depression.

Individuals who are unable to cope with their emotions are prone to bringing excess baggage home to their families, which can hurt their personal relationships.

Industries That Favor Open Plan

Open plan is beneficial for occupations that require a lot of interaction and teamwork. Computer programmers, media specialists and marketing associates may find the layout to be ideal to their needs.

The accessible design makes the flow of communication smoother and consistent, without the need to leave the desk or cubicle. From another perspective, productivity applications such as instant messengers, cloud storage and video conferencing are being widely used in private office settings to keep a constant flow of communication.

To conclude, the effectiveness of an open plan design heavily relies on the type of business and employees who will work in the office. A full assessment of risks is required to ensure that an open plan layout does not negatively affect the growth of the company. For employees who are unable to cope with working in an open plan office, there are plenty of other options, such as working from home or private offices.

How do you cope with working in an open plan layout? Share your experience with us below.

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