The Pros and Cons of Open Workspaces

April 03, 2019
Publication
Inside HR
Benefits

Open workspaces, as the name suggests, is a wide open space with no separate rooms where employees sit and work together. Working in an open office allows you and your coworkers to be in plain sight and earshot of one another.

The ideas behind open workspaces are solid. They’re meant to level the playing field, to literally knock down walls, welcome more natural light into the office and keep the workplace feeling connected through collaboration.

Many are in favor of the openness for various reasons:

  • Coworkers are much more approachable in this environment, which builds the office camaraderie.
  • Open workspaces fit more employees in the same room, so it's cost-effective compared to outfitting a building with private offices.
  • With an open workspace, you don’t need to commit to an office layout—open workspaces are designed to maximize flexibility. 

Groups of people working together on the same tasks with shared goals generally have positive experiences in this environment. It can be a good fit for highly collaborative jobs where employees interact frequently, like engineering teams working together on a project.

While open workspaces are successful for some, they aren’t for everyone. There are concerns with the open workspace concept:

  • Employees may have difficulty concentrating due to distractions. Colleagues have been known to have conversations from across the office instead of talking at someone’s desk.
  • Impromptu meetings can be an issue. A short question can turn into a 30-minute conversation, disrupting the people close by who are trying to focus.
  • Not terribly surprising, employees in open workspaces are sick more often than employees in a traditional office space, resulting in taking more sick days. According to The New Yorker, employees in open workplace offices take a staggering 62 percent more sick leave.  

With the challenges that our tight labor market brings, the wellbeing and happiness of employees needs to be a top priority. When deciding on what will work best within your company’s work environment, consider the culture and style of your team.