With Open Plan office designs entering their second decade, it is a good time to ask whether this trend has been a success. Undoubtedly Open plan design has allowed businesses to maximise office capacities and to rid their spaces of unnecessary hierarchical cellular offices and large workstations. However, there are several negative aspects to positioning your expensively acquired staff in long rows of bench desks, which is tantamount to the creation of office factories.
Row upon row of gleaming white rectangular benches with black/grey screens look lovely to all OCD orientated managers. However once you add messy people, chairs, wires & personal photos cuddly toys etc., the whole “look" loses its appeal pretty quickly.
The people at the ends of the rows always suffer the most – next to the hot radiators in winter and the hot windows in the summer. The people at the ends of the rows always suffer the most – distracted by the constant traffic of people moving by them and being the nearest the walkways makes them the unofficial receptionist for their particular row. The people in the middle of the row always suffer the most – other staff members on both sides of your workspace, hemming you in, encroaching on “your" area and unintentionally including you in their phone calls and conversations.
If you wish to add or subtract desks to the configuration, you will always require personnel & components to achieve this. The very practical shared componentry does not lend itself to this requirement. Furthermore, “desk joins" create individual user boundaries which tends to make a mockery of the term “free address benching". Also in many cases it is not actually more economical, per person that a more manoeuvrable standard desk.
The increased activity and noise levels, can severely affect an individual's concentration and therefore productivity. Regardless of the topic or validity to your specific role, you are involved in any and all discussions and conversations within earshot. In some cases right across the office environment. The very nature of bench desks lends them to intensive space planning layouts to maximise space and minimise costs. This in turn does not leave any areas for individuals to get up and go to, within the modern work space and this we now know is not good for us.
There are many, but assessing the occupancy levels of your costly floor space and how it is used by your staff is an excellent starting point. We here at Active look to carry out these assessments before any designs are created or discussions held regarding furniture requirements. Time and time again these studies demonstrate the “one size fits all" approach is not working and all offices could benefit from a design overhaul or at the very least a revamp to provide an environment that works for you, rather than the other way around.
Watch this space…
Over the next few weeks we will be discussing in some detail various alternatives to the open plan. We will also be discussing solutions and products that can improve your work space and have a positive effect on your staff as well as productivity.
Thanks for reading,
The Active team.