To have an office with an all-glass facade, skylights, palm trees …that would be a dream office come true! Alas, we have come a long way from disengaging ourselves to the stereotyped office layouts but still have a long way to go in accepting solutions that are beneficial to both the environment and man.
Studies show how surroundings affect mood, health and overall productivity and performance of office workers. Fifty years later after the introduction of open plan office concepts, we are still arguing the value of open vs closed office spaces. There are various reasons.
In a recent study performed by Ohio State University, workers were significantly happier and their productivity level was two times higher when they were placed in an open cubicle with skylights compared to the stress level of working in a closed and window-less space.
Organisations like open plan offices because they tend to be smaller and thus cost less on a per employee basis. The design is more flexible and encourages communication and interaction. This indirectly leads to organisational learning, decision-making speed and employee job satisfaction and commitment.
What is an open office? An open office can mean anything from a high-panel cubicle ( that does not allow you to see above and beyond while seated) to a low-panel cubicle formed in clusters. It could be a shared office space with 2-10 employees sharing a space.
The different types of “open” offices preferred also co-relates to the age of the workers. It has been shown that older employees prefer a closed office.
A few may argue that it is easier to control unwanted noise, distractions and interruptions that may be of an issue in an open office. Rather than being viewed as interruptions, the short, frequent communications allow fast feedback and response time thus allowing work to move forward. Additionally, it is a whole new learning process – being able to see and hear and observe how others handle different situations. We learn by watching and hearing and not just by being formally “instructed”.
I sign off now from my studio located on the third floor with a view to the rolling hills, clear blue sky and the cool breeze coming in.