Open-Space offices: their limits, and how to remedy them?

Open-Space offices: their limits, and how to remedy them?

For years, tech companies and other open-plan advocates have argued that despite employee complaints about privacy, open-plan offices have one main argument put forward: they inspire employees to interact more, sparking new ideas and stimulating collaboration.

The concept, therefore, is that removing barriers in today’s workspaces should improve workflow and communication between employees and reduce isolation or sense of hierarchy. It sounds reasonable, but it may not be. Study results indicate that an open-plan office could actually kill collaboration.



• Better and instant communication between employees


• Collaboration and speed of work


• Costs much less



• Less productivity and satisfaction for employees due to lack of privacy: there is no space that is really fair for them.


• Creativity is sometimes forced: employees feel that all eyes are on them, which can be stressful.


• Too much noise and distractions so not enough concentration.


• Concern for illnesses in the office: contagion is easier.


• The difference in the productive periods and durations of employees, and their social periods, which can irritate people or create conflict.



Harvard study shows that after redesigning an office into an open space, face-to-face time decreased by around 70% between employees on average, while email use increased by 22% at 50%.

One might think that the interactions before were only social and personal, but the data showed that it was not only the amount of collaboration that decreased but also the quality.

In a survey by Oxford Economics, 53% of respondents said open concept offices are noisy and it reduces their productivity and satisfaction.



Visually separate the spaces by using removable partitions or a plant screen between the offices and thus create a relaxing atmosphere.


• Create an isolated and reassuring space for more privacy and more concentration.


• Listen to background music.


• Note the hours of the day and the days of the week that are generally quieter in the office and use these hours for jobs that require more concentration.


• Signs / codes between employees asking not to be disturbed.


• Get away sometimes, and get some fresh air.


Open architecture usually triggers a natural human reaction which is to socially withdraw from office colleagues and interact via email, or phone instead. But it’s important to note that this office plan is more than a physical structure; it is a business philosophy and a commitment to openness and collaboration.