What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in open-space?

Many companies promote open-space. But what are their advantages and disadvantages?

by Caroline Le Guludec
What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in open-space?

(updated on April 6, 2021)

Nowadays, more and more companies are setting up their premises with open spaces rather than individual offices. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of shared workspaces?

What is an open space? 

As seen in our article 10 tips to work better in open-space, an open-space is a workspace shared by several people. It is often a room, also called "open plan", in which several offices are installed and where the company's employees live together.

The idea is to bring together offices in an open space without partitions. The open-space configuration has changed our relationship with the office and its layout. 

This is exactly what we needed, a new way of designing our workspaces, promising ease of communication, employee cohesion, space optimization and significant savings. 

However, unlike the individual office, the open-space does not guarantee any privacy or tranquillity. Despite the promised collective emulation, it must be admitted that open-spaces are not without their faults, and that it is a layout that, like everything else, has both advantages and disadvantages.

What are the advantages of open space?

The reason why so many companies opt for open space when fitting out or refurbishing their premises is because this new configuration can be appreciated by both the employer and the employees. 

Savings through open space

The open-space represents for the company a certain economic advantage. Even if the human aspect is put forward, it is especially the economic aspect which will weigh in the balance during the choices made by the company during the installation of its premises.

When the company opts for an open space, it is a less expensive and more practical solution. It saves money and space while still being able to accommodate the same number of employees or more. Abandoning the use of partitioned walls in favour of open spaces allows for the optimisation of work space. Thus, for the same floor area, more employees can be accommodated or for a reduced area, the same number of employees.

The price of rent being one of the heaviest charges for companies, it is a significant advantage that open space offers us there. Especially for offices located in large cities where the price per square meter is soaring. 

The open-space is likely to become even more popular following the pandemic, which is forcing all companies to set up teleworking and to reduce the size of their premises following a free fall in occupancy rates, but also in the interests of economy. 

Favoured human relations

In addition to being very interesting economically speaking, the open-space is an excellent engine of relationship and team spirit. The atmosphere in an open space is much more friendly than in a partitioned work area.

Because of the proximity, employees can interact easily and create bonds more quickly, which will help foster team spirit. Being surrounded by all employees and being able to interact with them contributes to the well-being of employees.

Thanks to this special period in which we are currently immersed, we have become aware of the social dimension of the workplace. We mustn't forget that social ties are essential to the smooth running of a company, giving rise to the company culture and having a definite impact on the commitment and productivity of workers. Employees work in an environment that is beneficial to them and the company benefits directly from this climate of collective emulation and well-being at work. 

Better communication within the company

Communication is one of the keys to business success. When the space is segmented into several individual offices, exchanges between employees are not easy. The physical presence of the partition creates a real distance between employees. 

The open space allows to alleviate this problem by facilitating the interactions between employees. Greater productivity results from this easier communication. 

Information flows more quickly

A major advantage of the open space is its ability to circulate information quickly. As we have seen in the previous sections, open spaces are not partitioned and exchanges take place much more naturally than in individual offices.

This ease of exchange allows information to circulate quickly from one employee to another, which contributes greatly to the company's dynamism. In addition, this transparency allows employees to be kept informed and therefore to feel even more integrated into the company on a daily basis.

Scrubbing the hierarchy

The open-space is part of a horizontal management logic. The hierarchy, even if it is not totally erased, is in a way erased since all employees, regardless of their position, work side by side every day and have exactly the same office. Thus, this arrangement can contribute to easing possible tensions and to a more serene understanding of these relationships.

A modular space 

Because of its layout, the open-space is easily modulable. This allows teams working together to facilitate work and exchanges in the event of a project or peak activity. 

There are many positive points to having an open space, but it's time to look at the possible disadvantages that you should be prepared for. As the aim of this article is to enlighten you and not to lose you even more, we will also try to provide you with as many solutions as possible to alleviate the problems encountered in open spaces!


What are the disadvantages of open space?

Lack of privacy

Even though one of the major advantages of open space is the proximity with colleagues, this same characteristic can become problematic for many people.

Being perpetually surrounded by people, in a permanent and ambient hubbub can be difficult to manage for some people. Thus the concentration, well-being and productivity of some people can be affected depending on their personality.

The little trick

Open space is not for everyone, so the ideal would be to set up a part of the office in open space and to keep a corner with partitioned offices or quiet spaces for personalities or professions that require more calm. 

Lack of confidentiality

In the same logic, the open space does not allow its occupants to benefit from a confidentiality space. It is difficult to be discreet about certain subjects when you share your office with a group of people. This can be very uncomfortable if you need to discuss a sensitive issue, a confidential project or make a personal call. If the open space does not offer any confidentiality, employees will tend to go out and go to inappropriate places: the corridor, the street, the toilets...

The little trick

To overcome this problem of confidentiality, we strongly recommend phoneboxes which are solutions that have been created for this purpose. Thanks to these acoustic booths you can integrate a new space of confidentiality into your office. We offer high performance, made in France and eco-responsible phon eboxes that guarantee confidentiality in open offices. 

Decreased concentration

The lack of privacy and confidentiality due to noise and proximity can result in a noticeable decrease in concentration, and therefore ultimately in productivity. An open-space is a space in which sensory stimuli are numerous: noise, lights, smells... All these little things can become very annoying if you can't stand them. All this contributes to lowering the worker's concentration, which is a key factor for success and productivity. The open space is therefore a problem in terms of concentration and can harm the company's performance. If you are interested in this subject, here is an article that you might like: 10 tips to be concentrated at work.

The little trick

Here again, acoustic furniture can be useful to offer more calm to the open space. There are not only acoustic booths to preserve the calm in your premises but a whole range of products: phonebox and phonebooth, partitions, acoustic panels, alcoves, office bubbles... If you want to know more about these solutions, we have compared them in an article, go to our blog!

Hierarchical pressure

As we have seen previously, open space can help to erase some of the hierarchy since it places all employees in the same place and under the same working conditions. However, paradoxically, this proximity between employees and employers can also result in an increase in hierarchical pressure.

Indeed, for some employees, the proximity with their hierarchical superiors can be badly experienced and perceived as a form of surveillance. This feeling can generate additional stress and hinder the employees' development in the company. 

The little trick

Make sure you don't make your employees feel uncomfortable by adopting a cooler attitude! Show them that you are not there to be on their backs, but truly to improve communication and relationships between you.

Open-space, a new workspace

Opting for open-space in your company is an interesting idea since it has many advantages over a single office. However, it is essential to also take into account its disadvantages and understand all its features before adopting it in your company. 

If you are interested in open-spaces and want to design your premises, discover the best furniture for open-spaces.

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