The open workspace culture emerged in the early 2000s with an aim to encourage communication among employees and to break the hierarchy taboos. Such a culture is very different from the much overused walled cabin system. It promotes a culture of transparency, while seemingly disregarding the need for privacy and uninterrupted focus. So is it worth investing in an open workspace for your startup? Let’s examine the pros and cons of such a workspace to help you decide better.
The bright side
It removes physical barriers: This kind of working space is the blown up version of the open door policy. An open workspace encourages better interaction among employees. This leads to a better understanding of each other’s work and skills. Work relationships are better calibrated and generate a sense of team spirit among the staff.
It saves time: In this fast-paced world where time is money, open workspaces save time as there is no need to wait to schedule a meeting. Since the floor is open, meetings become redundant as information flow is easy and discussions are encouraged. There is more collaboration and increased synergy.
It saves money: No cabins, no conference rooms, and no cubicles. This reduces costs tied to construction and furniture. Even machines and stationery can be shared among employees with ease. Consequently, it leads to a flexible working environment as the floor space can be redone tonnes of times (without significant costs) according to the wish of the employees.
It inspires innovation: An open office culture nourishes an environment of increased creativity and innovation. Ideas come more naturally, thus making brainstorming much easier.
It promotes transparency: An open floor eliminates bias and promotes an honest and transparent office culture. Promotions, transfers, and increments are on the basis of real work done. It even reduces office politics and eliminates any credit-seeking competitiveness.
The grey area
It is distracting: The increased contact in open office workspaces often gives rise to lot of informal and grapevine communication. This naturally inhibits attention to work and productivity takes a hit. Moreover, a noisy environment may affect the concentration levels of other employees.
It is invasive: Some staff members might find such a system too invasive. The lack of privacy can make it a challenge to work peacefully without constantly being monitored. Moreover, some businesses might need to have confidential discussions internally and/or externally. Such information, if disseminated freely, can create panic or unwanted outbursts in the office. It could even increase the incidence of whistleblowers, and in turn, make it more difficult to locate them.
It induces needless stress: Openness can sometimes lead to unnecessary stress. In fact, productivity, creativity, and social interaction take a hit due to the lack of privacy.
Rather than a purely closed work place or a purely open work space, a combination of both can be perfect. That said, while it is important to have a pleasant and private workspace at times, it is also essential to come up and work together with an open line of communication.