Once upon a time, there was a land before open plan offices. Workplaces were made up of a row of offices broken up by a long corridor, kind of like working on a weird train. The little boxes were bland, had no natural light or air flow, and were extremely claustrophobic. They did nothing to encourage the creative flow of ideas and even less to inspire the growth and potential of the office workers.
In the mid-20th century, architects set office workers free, sort-of, by putting them all in one big room, with row upon row of desks laid out. There was more air and light, but no more inspiration, and now there was more micromanagement and needless oversight than ever before. Everybody was looking over your shoulder, and this sort of office wasn’t really better.
In the 1960s the design was tinkered a bit, adding cubicles, with dividers and natural office groupings, and the open plan office was born. While this concept is now well into retirement age, it’s constant redesign and rebirth means that open plan offices are still very much the way to go.
When we think of open plan offices, we do still think of rows of mass-produced cubicle clones, with no privacy or sense of personal space. Open plan cubicles were designed with the idea that you only need one workspace to do your whole job, and this has been shown to limit workers’ development and increase worker turnover.
Open plan cubicles limit workers’ development and increase worker turnover.
The modern workspace design
The latest evolution of open plan office is the flexible office plan, with a number of new feathers in its cap. And the original ethos of the open plan workspace, the promotion of creativity, productivity and teamwork, is still very much at its heart.
This encourages something called Activity Based Working, or ABW, offices, where workers don’t have their own designated desk as such. Instead, they have access to several different types of spaces and can move around depending on the specific task they are performing at the time. As technology becomes smaller, storage goes online, data is wireless, and no one needs pens and paper anymore, workers can literally work wherever and whenever they want. The flexible office reflects this.
The flexible office has a mixture of private and communal space, with areas of differing community and sound levels. It includes traditional private and soundproof offices, as well as very opened-up areas.
What are some of the benefits of the next generation of open plan office?
Air and light
The open plan office offers the best use of air flow and natural light so that everybody gets their fair share of the stuff. As we’ve mentioned before, people respond well to workplaces that connect them to their natural environment, so being able to see the sun and feel actual air moment really helps. An extra bonus would be additions like plants, natural wood and stone textures and water features.
Open plan offices encourage the flow of energy and ideas. Workers find a movement and buzz which can be infectious at the right stage of certain projects. While quiet time has its obvious benefits and is essential for some work, other types of work thrive on people bouncing things off each other.
Even eavesdropping and butting in can have their positives when utilised well!
Fewer titles and hierarchy
Open plan cubicles and ABW workspaces are more equal and egalitarian than traditional offices. You aren’t awarded a title or corner office on the basis of your pay grade, but instead, have the most relevant space for your job role. You may be a manager located within your team’s open plan grouping, and have access to private meeting rooms or silent work areas as needed.
Improved energy flow
While air and ideas flow better in an open plan office, this layout is also better for the flow of positive living energy, and the removal of any negative energy. Better energy flow happens where there are space and light, as well as clean areas that are free from clutter.
Positive energy flow has been shown to improve creativity, productivity and worker health levels.
These things combined improve the businesses prosperity and success, which is usually the ultimate goal of a work environment.
Use of art and colour
An open plan office means that great colour pops, feature walls and art pieces can have maximum impact and make many people happy. This means art and colour chosen well can have a communally positive impact, but it also means drab colours and ugly art can bring many people down, so use these gifts very wisely.
While the open plan office has many benefits, one of the main attractions of the new-generation office is that you can escape the open plan-ness of it whenever you need to. The ability to move to a private or silent space if needed, or even adjust your hours, work from home, or set up in the local café or park, increases job satisfaction and productivity levels and reduces sick days.
For some great examples of modern open plan design, check out the following office spaces:
- Clickview, Sydney
- JWT, Sydney
- Blue Rock Group, Melbourne
- Eureka Towers, Melbourne
- Active TV, Melbourne
Your office should still reflect your brand, business and ethos, so individual designs are key, and we can create something perfect for you. For more ideas or to quote a commercial office fit out talk to us today.