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Closed Office or Open Space: What's Best for Productivity?

January 19th, 2010 · No Comments

In a world of distractions, what kind of work environment do you need to improve productivity?  There are constant debates about the value of cubicles and open floor plans versus enclosed offices.  Companies switch back and forth over the years, trying one and then succumbing to trends or complaints and reversing their layouts.

While there can be advantages to both, the challenges my clients face center on trying to focus and concentrate.  Business distractions for everyone include ringing telephones, dinging email messages, and drop-in visitors.  When you in a more open space, not only do you have to cope with these distractions, but you have to find a way to work through the conversations, phone calls, and traffic of others around you.

Advantages of cubicles or open floor plans:

  1. Saving money by fitting more employees into less space
  2. Increasing collaboration by quickly sharing ideas
  3. Fewer status issues

Advantages of closed offices:

  1. Limiting distractions for greater concentration
  2. More space

Home Offices:  It is not just about big companies.  The same decision has to be made in a home office situation.  Do you have a blocked off room, away from family and the noise of household activities or do you have your laptop set up on the kitchen table?

Schools:  The school environment also faces these issues.  There were years when the open concept was in full swing.  You would have 3 or 4 classes spread out with small barriers like bookcases.  Each class might have 25 children in it.  It is hard enough to keep 25 students controlled and focused without them checking out what is going on in the other areas, especially if there was a “fun” activity with associated noise.

In my time management training sessions, noise is an issue brought up by participants.  There are some tools that you can use to cut back on this.  Try headphones or a white noise machine designed for cubicles to reduce much of the sound to a background drone.  Even in a “box” office situation, you need to close that door sometimes in order to be really productive.

Not everyone can thrive in the same environment.  Wouldn’t it be great if, when you joined a team, you were given a choice based on what works best for you?  Are you easily distracted or does a busy environment stimulate your thought processes?  Take away the status issue connected with a closed office and instead assign the spaces based on:

  • Type of work
  • Space requirements for your job
  • Your personal style
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Tags: Office Productivity