This is a guest post by James Duval.

team workplace

Image by Marcin Wichary

The influence of open-plan organisations such as Google, and Facebook has encouraged more and more businesses to use an open layout for their offices to inspire creativity and unity. Companies are trying to imitate these offices to get a snippet of their success.

The open office layout is widely believed to enhance the team working and sharing amongst staff. But it also has its critics as many blame open offices for decreased productivity and widespread illness around the office. This has made a new problematic challenge for businesses in how they choose to layout their offices for the workforce.

Team Building

The open-plan office can really help break down awkward managerial barriers encouraging co-workers to share ideas and help each other out with aspects of their work that they are unsure on. This will hopefully create a unity in the workplace and build co-worker relationships.

Unity across the team will provide a collaborative aim to achieve the same goals which will overall boost the performance of the company. The open-plan office will also make for a happier workplace, lowering staff turnover and providing the opportunity for employees to excel.

Adding the social element to the workplace hopefully will create an environment with an innovative nature where staff can brainstorm off each other. However is this really necessary for say an insurance company? Or having a slide instead of stairs in an accountancy agency?


The main critic for the open-office is the distractions that they cause for employees. Large glass windows, novelty decorations, or even a ping-pong table can really distract employees from their actual jobs. Even though the staff are happy, they may not working at their optimum level.

The noise created by office chit-chat, ringing phones, laughter can decrease the productivity of the workforce and can make staff forget that they are here to work. If the opportunity to procrastinate is amplified by an open office, the staff are going to be more likely to avoid doing their work. The open-office can be very off-putting.

The Balance

Organisations in an industry where the workforce tasks do not necessary require the most innovative ideas: an office that is too open probably is not going to drive the overall performance of the company. It is important to understand the nature of your organisation and the type of staff you have when deciding the layout of the office.

A suitable balance that is not too open or isolates employees is going to ensure that employees are happy and can communicate while being able to complete the work necessary. This can be done with various office dividers, and glass walls that are not too overbearing but necessary for the organisation to perform at its best.

Offices can still have wacky features and decorations as long as they are not too distracting or if they fit in with the business context. Offices can run the risk of trying too hard to appear as an innovative company, but end up contradicting the nature of their industry.

Have you ever worked in an open-plan office? Does it work for you?

James Duval

James Duval is an expert in technology and business. He writes various blogs for Applied Workplace about business & technology. They specialise in office partitioning.