What’s your idea of modern office design? Do you picture an office with wide open spaces and colorful bean bags? Do you like the idea of a few cubicles or walled offices here and there with plenty of additional communal space? Or, do you shake your head at the newfangled workplace, mourning the days of quiet offices with long hallways and plenty of quiet office spaces with doors that shut?
How Can Modern Office Design Cater to Everyone’s Needs?
While modern office design is decidedly trending in a cubicle-free, open-office direction, we predict there will be some sort of pendulum swing in the near future. The open-office concept has been a hit, especially for budget-conscious and forward-thinking start-ups that like the idea of information free flow, not to mention reduced construction and materials costs, that an open floor plan accommodates.
They’re also a space-saving tactic in an era when mobile workers proliferate, and you never know who will be in or out that day. Designated cubicle or office spaces are a waste of space if an employee is mostly on the go. But where does that leave the employee who needs quiet to work? Or the one who prefers to work in a more private space?
Executives may want to to tune into some key studies that demonstrate the open-office concept may not be the best idea. A Finnish study determined there is a negative acoustic impact when workers migrate from private to communal work spaces and it affects productivity.
A study the the University of Tennessee Knoxville states that lack of privacy has affected employee confidence as a result of privacy loss and the feeling that no conversations are confidential anymore. This coincides with a report from the University of Sydney that examined the “privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices.” Researchers found the disadvantages to open office spaces outweighed the advantages for employees who participated in their study.
Clearly, these studies are worth thinking about. Another interesting, and rather surprising, finding is that workers in open office spaces claim “lack of space” as a primary complaint, even though they technically have a majority of the available square footage. Perhaps personal space is more important than tried-and-true collaborators give it credit for.
Either way, the answer seems obvious: the modern office will need to strike a balance between community areas where collaboration and highly-touted “free flowing communication” is a reality, but where workers have access to more private and quiet spaces when needed.