Open-Office Layouts and Workplace Management Software

cubicles people working office workplace-1-1

The importance of striking a balance in your workplace layout is key for productivity and morale. With advancements in tech, the changing way people work and a plethora of new furniture options, your workplace strategy can be more agile.

Pros and Cons of Different Workplace Types

Most modern workspaces have discarded the endless rows of grey, Dilbert-style cubes for more modern open workstations or even benching, where employees sit in rows very close to their colleagues. Some of the driving forces from switching from cubicles to more open plan offices are the changes in technology. A desk no longer needs to be as deep as they did in the past (to accommodate a huge computer monitor). Work is more collaborative, with shared networks, online documents, and software solutions making employees more productive. Real estate is costly and companies need to get the most out of their space. However, the move to open-plan offices isn’t always a silver bullet and can come with other hidden costs and issues for employees and the facilities team. 

So what are some of the drawbacks to an open office environment, and how can workplace software help?

1.) Too Much Noise


According to a study conducted by Hong Kong Polytecnic University, two major factors account for worker productivity: noise and temperature. Surveyors said that the most annoying noises were conversations, phone rings, and machine sounds—all things that will bother people on a regular basis if they work in an open-office layout. While the younger study participants were least affected by environment, workers 45 and above were found to be particularly sensitive to noise.

As popular as multi-tasking has become, the brain can only handle so much stimulation at one time. When it’s forced to focus on one task while also trying to filter out other stimuli, the end result is subpar work. Regardless of worker age, noise can be a great damper to productivity. One person’s collaboration is another’s distraction. 

2.) More Sickness

Without the usual barriers to protect them and an increase in proximity to each other, workers are more likely to get sick, draining the office of its manpower and decreasing its overall productivity. The Scandinavian Journal of Work found that open-office layouts reported 62% more sick days than those with its workers in separate stations. One person with the sniffles can cause a mini-epidemic if they’re exposed to other people.

Besides being in close contact with people all day, another thing linking sickness to open offices is stress. The burden of having to constantly work around distractions can take its toll on a worker’s immune system, making them more susceptible to illness.

3.) Less Productivity

Several studies have pointed to the open office as a culprit for decreased productivity in the workplace. The Journal of Environmental Psychology highlighted “reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction and lower perceived privacy as factors negatively affecting productivity in open-office environments.” The specific problem? Overheard conversations.

Fans of the open-office layout say that their best benefit is collaboration. In fact, after Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ended the company’s work from home policy, she noted that people were more productive alone, but the new policy would result in better collaboration. When it comes to thinking about collaboration in the office, however, you have to weigh the benefits of productive workers versus collaborative ones. Yes, they may be more collaborative, but does that really matter if the project moves at a snail’s pace, since no one can work at 100%?

4.) Absenteeism

open office agile spaces

The problems caused by their environment can also cause workers to call out of work. Dutch researcher Paul Roelofson found that workers unhappy with their environment were absent from their offices an average of 2.5 days a year. If these factors were changed to fit workers’ preferences, Roelofson suggests that productivity could increase from anywhere between 5% and 15%.

The key to better productivity and greater worker satisfaction might be as simple as paying attention to factors such as temperature. With that in mind, ask around the office and get workers’ opinions on things like lighting, temperature, etc. Consider ways you can accommodate the group’s preferences so that your workers can be focused and comfortable.

How Software Can Help Tracking Desk Vacancy and Occupancy in Your Facility

space management software wall kiosk

The more open the office layout, the more tempting it is for employees to simply move themselves into a location they like. Without processes and policies in place, leaving employees to simply take any desk or space can wreak havoc for the facilities team. The changes make it difficult to for them to plan and account for the space and the number of desks being used by each team or department.  Adopting simple, user friendly workplace technology can make the difference between a chaotic free-for-all and efficient space management. OfficeSpace's Move Manager solves this problem by giving the ability to easily move employees and streamline move process, reducing costs and bringing a new level of efficiency to your organization that everyone will love.

Another great way to get employee buy-in is to make the company floorplans available on kiosks. This will make it easy for employees to find each other in an agile workplace and also find a seat!

Request an OfficeSpace demo

Whatever you do, make sure to use a web-based solution where all employees can have access to live, up-to-date company floor maps where they can search who sits where. OfficeSpace Visual Directory® is a great solution for employees to be able to locate their co-workers, and with a powerful move management software system behind it, it’s easy for facilities to stay on top of the occupancy and vacancy of the facility.