Why Open Concept Office Design Isn’t for Everyone

January 22, 2019

 

With every generation come new design concepts, whether it’s in the office challenging tradition or in the home embracing downsizing. Over the last 5-10 years, the idea for the “Open Concept” office came into fruition and challenged our expectations, which were seemingly high.

The idea itself seems promising on paper, an office mimicking the co-working space design, allowing room for more conversation and collaboration, and yet there is something preventing it from being the revolutionary concept it was intended to be. It begs the question: is the pressure to socialize, collaborate, and choose your own seat too much for an employee who just wants to come in and get work done?

People of all different personalities with all different workplace behaviors work for the same employer, and that is what makes determining an office space design such a difficult process. In the article “Will Developers Be Forced to Close the Door On Open Door Concept Offices”, they reference a study conducted by CommercialCafé stating that,

While the concept has good intentions, it reminds us that we all have different ways of working. Some people want music playing over the speakers, keeping them energized and focused, while others are more sensitive and need silence in order to work. As we all know, it is almost impossible to please everyone, so is the attempt to lump everyone who works for the same company as one entity potentially ineffective?

 

Harvard Business Review introduces the “place-identity theory,” which is essentially how one feels about a space, as the game-changing method of thinking for how open concept offices could work. The article states,

They provide examples of how leaders can encourage employees in the adapting process, or how enthusiasm (rather than fear) is a great approach to a major change. Their belief stems in not letting employees flounder in their new environment, but rather have leaders showcase how great the environment can be. It is about making people feel comfortable and seen, showing them that they have an important place in the office.

When a company attempts to create a collective change, one that encourages more discussions in hopes of new ideas and collaboration, there is opportunity for both success and failure, like with any fresh movement.

Now that people are realizing the open-concept office isn’t perfect, designers are working on providing choices for employees who are on opposite ends of the preference spectrum, as each has a different “place identification” at work. Ranging from the extroverted socially engaged people to the introverted focused-on-work people, a company should adapt based on employee preferences, not just popular design trends, while still maintaining their goal in mind and working closely with employees during the adjustment period.

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