Walk into any trendy, modern workspace and look around. Odds are, you’ll have an expansive view. Over the last few decades, open office design has replaced offices and cubicles with vast expanses of partition-free workspaces. In fact, a recent study revealed that around 70 percent of U.S. offices have low or no partitions in their workspaces.
But how did we get here? How have open floor plans changed the way we work? And what is the future of office design now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reconsider collective spaces?
Work Without Walls
The idea behind the open space office was to forge — err, force — connections and communication between employees. In theory, fewer walls and office cubicles would mean more interaction, a free flow of ideas, and even physical perks like access to natural light from surrounding windows.
The concept dates back to the 1930s, when Frank Lloyd Wright designed an office for SC Johnson & Son that was intended to mimic an open natural space with the sky above. Today, long bench-style desks without designated workstations are all the rage, facilitated by the ease of moving laptops from place to place.
Open Room for Improvement
As the saying goes, the best-laid (open) plans of mice and men often go astray. Open office design does not appear to have encouraged increased communication or fostered greater collaboration. Indeed, the opposite is true.
An intricate study using physical and technological data revealed that switching to an open office floor plan actually reduces face-to-face interactions by 70%. A lack of privacy also hampers creativity and honest feedback, as employees may not feel comfortable sharing new ideas or criticisms when their colleagues are within earshot.
2020 posed a whole new challenge to the open office design trend. This is an unprecedented era in which interpersonal contact is downright dangerous. An undivided space doesn’t just threaten employees’ privacy — it potentially threatens their health.
As companies begin to bring employees back into the workplace, the focus is on keeping staff healthy, and avoiding issues (such as entire teams being out of office at the same time) that may cause disruptions to productivity.
Divide and Conquer
It seems as though cautious distancing will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. For businesses with open office plans, this means there’s much work to be done.
Fortunately, stylish solutions can be implemented that maintain some of the perks of an open office — such as natural lighting and a stylish aesthetic — without sacrificing safety.
As an added benefit, installing partitions could allow businesses to test whether a little more privacy can aid in improving productivity, morale, and communication.
Our Exhibit Options designers have been working on solutions for the modern workspace that allow businesses to resume operations in a way that keeps employees safe.
Solutions include stylish and functional office cubicle walls, room guards, and partitions. Along with floor and desk-mounted partitions, panels can also be suspended from above in order to maintain floor space as workstations are spread to safer distances.
Check out examples of safe and stylish cubicle designs and partition solutions on our website.
If you’re ready to rethink your open office plan, or other areas such as waiting rooms and meeting areas, please reach out to the experts at Exhibit Options. We’re here to help you get back to business!