Open offices are the way of the future.
Wait… are they?
Companies are increasingly ditching old-school, cubicle-heavy office spaces for open-concept offices, which have evolved into the new standard.
Take mammoth companies like Facebook and Google for example – they’ve invested millions in creating mega-successful open office spaces intended to boost collaboration and create a sense of belonging (although that’s not always the case, as you’ll see).
Free from individual cubicles, partitions, and other physical barriers, open offices boast communal workspaces, shared tables and break-out rooms for private meetings.
Open offices are all the rage – but they’re not without pushback and arguments against their effectiveness. As it turns out, the open concept isn’t for everybody.
The latest research leans toward the notion that open office spaces are productivity killers. (If that’s true, how do we manage to accomplish so damn much here at Convertus headquarters?)
Some people long for the good old days where private workspaces meant an easy escape from office noise, distractions, or irksome coworkers. Others fully embrace this new, community-oriented landscape of work and office life.
So, are you all about wide-open spaces or a more private workplace? We’ve compiled some of the biggest upsides and downsides of open office life to help you figure it out.
The pros of working in an open office
Open communication – The lack of barriers encourages frequent face to face communication and collaboration between different teams and departments, which can help boost productivity. The openness also promotes inclusion, social belonging, and continuous team-building.
No hierarchy – When we’re not separated from management, it creates feelings of equality and approachableness. Conversations with higher-ups are commonplace and encouraged. At Convertus, we share desks with our Team Leads and often bump into our founding partners at the snack rack (yes, we have a snack rack.)
Versatility – In an open space, there are always opportunities for movement, rearrangement, and redesign. They’re highly adaptable to changing needs. This lets us stay adaptable in a rapidly-changing market!
“My favourite thing about working in an open space is that, even though I have my own space, I feel like I can communicate really easily with other team members”
-Caitlin, Customer Success
Space – there’s so much of it! The spaciousness of open office settings feels welcoming, light and lofty, rather than cubicles or partitions, which can make spaces feel crowded, smaller, and more confined.
Creativity flourishes – Being surrounded by creative folks doing cool things definitely inspires creativity among others. Incorporating lots of greenery, appropriate lighting, unique interior design and other office decor accelerates creativity and innovation.
Opportunities for exposure to diverse talent – In an open office, employees can observe other departments doing their thing and continuously learn through exposure. It creates opportunities for growth and development in different areas of expertise.
Increased accountability – In an open setting (where everyone can see what you’re up to), employees are more motivated to stay focused and keep personal phone calls, private conversations, and texting to a minimum. This could be an upside or a downside. It’s no fun feeling like someone’s constantly peeking over your shoulder! Don’t worry, though. That’s not a thing here at Convertus or many other open office companies.
Cost-Effectiveness – Cubicles are expensive! It’s costly to build individual workspaces, so the fewer barriers you have to build, the lower the cost. Fewer barriers also means more space per person, so there’s no need to invest in a massive office space to fit the whole team.
“We’re optimizing the route to meaningful high fives, one open workspace at a time.”
Nikki, Lead Content Strategist
The cons of working in an open office
Distractions, they’re everywhere! Especially for us curious folks. There are people moving about, multiple conversations happening at once, strangers coming in and out for meetings, and in some cases (the best cases), dogs. There are a lot of ways to tune out distractions, though.
Pro tip: place an especially large plant near your desk to block out visual distractions. Or just use headphones.
No privacy – As we mentioned earlier, everyone can see what you’re up to. So it’s probably a good idea to limit your time spent watching cat videos, and try to refrain from doing the weird things you’d do in the privacy of your own cubicle.
Feelings of anxiousness – For some people, the feeling of being constantly overlooked creates feelings of nervousness or anxiety. It causes employees to multitask a little too much, or take on more than manageable to prove that they’re always working their hardest. It’s okay to press pause every once in a while!
Reducing autonomy – Individual office spaces create a sense of independence, where self-determination rules. On the other hand, open office spaces are built on team collaboration and group efforts. There are still opportunities for independence in an open office, though!
Undermine employee motivation – Tying into the feelings of nervousness we mentioned earlier, some employees feel an added pressure by having management constantly around and overlooking. This pressure might hinder an employee’s motivation.
A conduit for sickness – Just like any shared spaces, sickness spreads more easily in an open office. So load up on hand sanitizer and take your vitamins! And if you’re sick, please, PLEASE just work from home.
The verdict: results may vary.
So, does an open office space work for you or your company? It really depends. There are so many elements that go into forming a functional open space, from the physical aspects to the culture and social environment an organization creates. To flourish, open offices need a healthy combination of collaborative workspaces and private areas to escape to. The way in which an open office is structured contributes to employee productivity, collaboration, creativity, and focus. So you have to get it right!
The most important element, though, is the people. People are what make or break an open office.
We work in an open office here at Convertus, and let us tell you: it’s awesome. There are endless opportunities to collaborate with other departments and share meaningful moments together as a team. Not to mention bumping into each other throughout the day, striking up conversations, having a coffee together or playing a quick game of foosball. We thrive here.
Do you feel like you could thrive here, too? Check out our current job openings and get in touch!