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Is an Open Floorplan Office Design for You?

August 8, 2017

When it comes to talking about an open floor plan office design, everyone has an opinion. You spend 40 hours a week at your office and it really becomes a second home for most people. 

"We usually see more extroverted people get excited about the change because they'll have more opportunity to interact with their coworkers," said Tanya Logan, an interior designer at McWaters' Augusta office. "A lot of times more introverted people will be afraid of losing a physical space that they have control over."

But that doesn't mean an extrovert can't thrive in a conventional office or an introvert will be miserable in an open one. Today, Tanya is answering the most common questions and fears McWaters designers hear when it comes to conventional office vs. open floor plan office designs. 

How can an introvert thrive in an open floor plan office design?

It's usually important to introverts to have a space that's owned vs. shared. It's important they can identify a day-to-day work space that's their own and where they can be in control, even if the surrounding area gets chaotic. Providing a quiet space where they can make a private phone call or work secluded will help provide a space for recharge and privacy in an open office. 

How can an extrovert thrive in a more conventional office design?

While an extrovert may have their own private office for more solitary work, having a space for them to work, like a lounge or work café, will provide them with the energy they need to stay recharged through the day. They can balance distractions and social interactions while still being productive. 

What are the benefits of each office type?

Creative industries usually thrive in an open plan because it encourages a lot of interaction and collaboration.  It's just very easy to quickly get to someone or share ideas. Since not everyone has an office or a giant cubicle, it maximizes your square footage, which is also great for startups or rapidly growing companies. 

More traditional industries and those with sensitive information are better suited for a conventionally planned office, with higher panels on workstations and private offices. When we design spaces for the healthcare or financial industries, we know that we'll be limited in how open we can make the space because most of the employees are dealing with personal records that can't be out in the open. A more conventional layout allows for more privacy and helps your employees spend most of their time in the heads-down focus mode. The same is true for companies where people make a lot of noise as part of their job, like service call centers or sales industries.

How does each type affect company culture?

It's usually the other way around: company culture affects which type of plan you go with. Private offices have that more formal structure, so it works better for cultures that are already more formal. We also see people wanting to go more open because they're growing and want to make the best use of their space before they get so big they have to relocate.

Have you seen a change in demand for open offices in the past few years?

The demand really depends on the markets. For example, in Savannah, we have so many customers in the healthcare market, so an open office isn't an option for most of our customers. In that market we see a lot more enclosed, tall cubicles or private offices to help protect the sensitive information they deal with every day. Augusta tends to be culturally traditional, but we're seeing more openness to a blended option as opposed to going to a fully open floor plan. 

How do you create private spaces in an open office? What about spaces for focusing?

No matter what type of office layout you have, you still need spaces for collaboration and heads down focus. So, in a traditional layout, our team usually plans for those to be on the way to somewhere people frequent, so interactions and collaborations can happen organically. 

Is there a third option that's more of a mix of both?

Yes, I think that’s always what’s needed. When you get down to it, there are certain departments within every company who do well with open spaces and then there are people who literally need an office because their job demands privacy. You can even make the private offices more blended by giving them glass fronts so management is still a part of the rest of the office, but they have access to a little more privacy.

Still have questions about office layouts? We're happy to consult on your upcoming project. 

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