This article was updated on August 27, 2018.
Have you identified the best office layout to meet your employees' needs? Office layouts that foster productivity, creativity and motivation can engage your employees and help your business grow.
Office design has evolved over time to meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce. Floor plans have demanded everything from complete privacy to complete openness. Functionality has changed from group seating surrounded by watchful offices, to cubicles and now to mixed-use spaces.
Here we'll look at three types of popular office layouts to help you figure out what might be the best possible layout for your workforce.
Open offices were designed to remove distance and enhance collaboration between teammates and departments. Businesses wanting to encourage peer interaction will do well with an open floor plan. By removing physical barriers, such as walls and doors, employees have more opportunity to interact and build camaraderie. Interactions are more informal and don't usually require scheduled meetings or appointments. Open floor plans also have a positive economic impact on businesses because there are fewer offices to construct and maintain and less use of electricity and heating.
While an open floor plan is good for collaboration, it can be a barrier to concentration. Because your staff are always "on," it may be difficult for them to accomplish projects and tasks. If productivity suffers — whether because of not being able to concentrate or too much socialization during the workday — the organization's bottom line suffers. A lack of privacy is another issue of open office environments.
According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), the number of employees who say they can't concentrate at their desks has increased by 16 percent. "The increased focus on collaborative work means we're rarely alone, and the ubiquity of mobile devices means we're always accessible," notes HBR. A closed office space can help employees focus without distractions. Private offices also create a dedicated hierarchy system and give personal space to introverted employees.
Private offices require the need for more electronic communication. If you want to increase face-to-face collaboration, a closed-off layout probably isn't an ideal choice. Walls also force a physical distance, making some employees nervous to bother or intrude on their counterparts. Closed offices eat up valuable square footage and cost more to build and maintain. It's also more difficult to supervise employees in a closed office space.
With a more prevalent mobile and remote workforce, there's no longer the need to dedicate space in the floor plan for every employee. This frees up valuable square footage for more creative layouts. Hybrid layouts let employees move freely between private and public work stations when their needs change.
Without proper design, hybrid floor plans can be cluttered or underutilized. Hybrid offices require planning to include active areas, concentration areas and a mix of the two. A poorly planned hybrid space wastes money in construction and overall cost per square foot.
The best office layout generally consists of a wide variety of spaces where people have the ability to make decisions about how they can best do their jobs. It might be a good idea for organizations to balance open and closed layouts. When you have some employees who do the majority of their work in the office and others who only come to the office for meetings, the floor plan needs to adjust to provide for both types of employees.
Besides layout, other important design considerations include lighting, colors and technology. But ultimately, what's most important is making sure that, no matter what changes to the layout you make, you ask your employees what's important to them and do your best to accommodate their needs.