The Great Open Office Debate Doesn’t Matter. But Having Great Conference Rooms Does.

by in Meeting Room, Best Practices, Trends

The open office concept has been a hot topic of discussion for work culture over the past decade. By the mid 2010s, more than 70% of all offices had opened up their floor plans with the intent to open up business conversations and increase collaboration between coworkers. The results are still mixed, but whether you’re for or against open offices, there’s one thing you need to get right: your conference rooms. 

Whether you’re for or against open offices, there’s one thing you need to get right: conference rooms.

What is an open floor plan?

An open floor plan or open office place is an architectural and interior design term meaning a room or floor that has no (or minimal) obstructing walls. An open office plan is usually put into place in order to boost communication and increase transparency around the office. 

Why companies are for open offices

The original concept of the open office plan was to encourage innovation, creativity and teamwork between employees and their managers. Cubicles and private offices have a reputation as being unfriendly and archaic, while the open office concept just seems to be a more energetic, modern and positive working environment. Here are the leading reasons companies vouch for the open office floor plan. 

Better communication

With an open office floor plan, everyone is reachable. The ability to look over at coworkers and easily ask them a question instead of having to walk to their office or sending an email makes communication and collaboration happen in real time. Email chains between teams are reduced and exchanged with live discussions that generally lead to faster decision making.

More transparency with leadership

In an open office, managers and supervisors aren’t holed up in a separate space, and many opt to sit alongside their teams. For management, the added proximity leads to more engaged and informed leaders, and junior employees benefit from more face time and more direct communication opportunities with their management teams. 

Less design costs 

In all practicality, building dividers cost money. Walls, doorways, doors, soundproofing, electrical runs, desks and furniture all add up to the price it takes to divide your teams into private offices. Open office plans are built around shared spaces with shared tables and shared amenities. They are also typically built around flexible work-from-home policies that incorporate “hot desks” for employees to pop in and work on their own schedules.

Why companies are notoriously against open offices

The open office floor plan isn’t embraced by everyone, however. The idea of a barrier-free space can feel detrimental to productivity levels, and employees are starting to see through the allure of modern furniture and funky aesthetics. Here are the arguments against the open office trend.

No privacy

An office without walls or partitions can make employees feel exposed and anxious about the quality of their work. Open office floor plans push employees to seek private rooms just to regain a sense of privacy.

Lots of distractions

Rows of colleagues in a small area makes it easy to get pulled into a lot of different conversations. On one hand, you get to create these great personal relationships and learn how your coworkers work and live their lives outside of the office — on the other hand, it can get irritating and the distractions can prevent you from doing your job efficiently. 

Noise

Of open office employees, 29% report productivity issues due to noise. White noise machines and noise-cancelling headphones do help, but for almost one third of employees, open office noise distractions are having a huge impact on our ability to get work assignments done.

Insufficient collaboration spaces

Without personal spaces or enough meeting rooms, everyone is fighting for a private space to make their calls. Meetings that might just be between two to three people who would collaborate better in a huddle room often squat in a large conference room built for 10 just so they can have their own guaranteed private space to think.

Our answer: Both suffer without a strategic conference room plan

The conference room is at the heart of most meetings, with remote participants dialing in from their laptops or phones. The same teams that gain cohesion and camaraderie in an open office need a place to go to activate ideas and bring project plans to life. And those who oppose the open office are typically in need of private space alternatives for both self-think and strategic collaboration time. Whether you have rows of private offices or open desks, we all need dedicated collaboration spaces for in-person meetings and private video calls. 

Use a zone approach

By creating different zones for different styles of work, you give your employees the freedom to work how they feel they could be the most productive, without forcing them into an environment they’re not comfortable in. For example, create a cluster of standing desks in an area designed for collaboration and separate it from a quiet work area that’s meant for concentration. With this approach, your employees can get the best of both worlds — and the freedom to choose how they want to work. 

Designate space for private calls 

Almost a third (31%) of U.S. open office workers have gone to a closet, hallway or even a bathroom stall to take a personal phone call. By creating small phone booths and private pop-in spaces around the office, employees can take phone calls in privacy and reduce the feeling of exposed anxiety.

Equip conference rooms for collaboration

Today’s business professionals spend almost 40% of their time in meeting rooms. That’s why outfitting your meeting spaces with the right video conferencing tools is more important than ever. Well-designed meeting spaces that are equipped with easy-to-use, high quality video conference room solutions allow meetings to flow effortlessly and employees to be more productive and engaged. 

Learn how to design, set up and deploy the perfect meeting room based on your unique needs.

Identify smaller spaces for huddle rooms

Huddle rooms are perfect for small, ad-hoc meetings or working sessions — by having huddle rooms always accessible and never bookable, teams always have a place to meet and work through projects. Huddle rooms can also serve as small, private spaces to conduct video calls away from the open office

How IOS Offices made a business out of great open offices

IOS Offices is a coworking provider that offers space and services throughout Mexico. By combining modern architecture, technology and office design, IOS Offices allows for individuals to meet, collaborate and brainstorm in a range of open office spaces and dedicated meeting rooms. 

When designing their premiere conferencing solutions, IOS Offices partnered with Lifesize to deliver the highest quality video. By providing tenants with options for how they want to conduct their workday, whether it be via video conferencing in a large conference room or just a quiet work desk, IOS Offices can guarantee an ideal environment to get work done and facilitate inspiring collaboration sessions.

Conclusion

Whether you’re for or against today’s popular open office floor plan concept, the rising costs of real estate and increasing focus on team communication and collaboration will continue to drive the need for high quality conference rooms and dedicated meeting spaces. Check out the 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Industry Report for more trends impacting the future of work, and for more on conference room design, check out our post on the 7 Design Tips for the Ultimate Conference Room