5 Reasons Open Floor Plan Offices Are Out of Style

5 Reasons Open Floor Plan Offices Are Out of Style

For years now, office building owners have been tearing down walls and taking out cubicles, opting for more open floor plans in order to cater to younger workers – so they thought. Staples conducted a survey of the bulk of the workforce today (millennials and GenXers) and found that more than a third, 40% of them find open floor plans disruptive, making it “difficult to focus.” 

Workers Want Both

Wall seating, benches, couches, partial workstations, and conferencing zones in a wide open office cost less money to build and are supposed to create a more productive environment. Instead, open floor plan offices are showing diminishing returns and backfiring.

Meanwhile, a full 70% of office buildings are open concept. At the same time, 60% of workers say they prefer to work in a quiet space or at home. The workspace trend has shifted away from open concept to mix-use floor plans that value quiet and focused spaces along with collaborative zones.

Office space developers need to plan for these new layout demands. The open floor plan office that has dominated for the last several years is out of style for these 5 reasons:

#1: Open Floor Plans Are Inflexible

Open concept is supposed to be more freeing and flexible in an office setting than cubicles. Turns out, they are just as inflexible as cubicles. Open concept leaves little room for quiet or personal space. The move now is toward a happy medium between the two or ABW (Activity Based Work) design where the setup is based on the work being done – couches and benches for collaborators, quiet rooms and offices for concentrated solitary work.

#2: Open Floor Plans Cause Stress

It was believed that open floor plan offices would make workers happier and healthier because of the interaction and liveliness. Turns out it just causes stress. In an open floor plan office, there tends to be no place to focus and get away. People don’t always feel sociable but they are forced to be in this situation resulting in less concentration and more stress.

#3: Open Floor Plans Are Disruptive

Open floor plans in offices tend to be noisy, comparable to the constant background noise of a busy lobby or restaurant. A clear majority of workers – between 60% and 64% – feel these office floor plans make it impossible to escape constant disruptions and interruptions from co-workers seated at the same table or found the constant background noise in general is a distraction.

#4: Open Floor Plans Cramp Personal Space

Most workers never even realized that their cubicles were getting smaller. Offices have been shrinking for years from over 20 square meters per worker to less than ten and as low as 4. Open concept basically eliminates personal space altogether. Workers can feel the loss of personal space now and want it back.

#5: Open Floor Plans Do Not Increase Productivity

Predictions of increased productivity were largely speculative. Turns out those predictions were totally wrong. Instead of there being evidence that open floor plan offices increase productivity, the evidence shows that it actually decreases productivity because workers are distracted, stressed, and tend to call off sick more often than workers in traditional offices.