Thoughts on the open plan office design
Discomfort is a frequent complaint in any office environment. Two other common complaints include:
- lack of natural light
- privacy (none!)
Usually with comfort the fault is with the office chair. However, light and privacy are important comfort factors too.
Lack of Natural Light
It is thought that up to one in ten employees have no access to natural light. This is a particular problem during winter months. Travelling to and from work is often during the hours of darkness. Lack of natural light is a cause of seasonal affective or winter depression, commonly known as SAD.
Sitting in dim or poor lighting or harsh lighting has a number of other problems too. It is a common cause of eye strain leading to headaches. Dim or poor lighting also affects productivity as it causes drowsiness. Partitioning off individual office spaces can block natural light in larger buildings. One of the main advantages of an open plan workspace is it can be designed so all desks have the benefit of natural light.
Privacy is one of the main reasons people dislike the open plan office design. Certainly for some professions peace and quiet is necessary for concentration and focus. The noise in an open plan office would be distracting. For other professions collaboration actually encourages teamwork important for development of ideas and creativity. It certainly helps with learning, a benefit for newer employees finding their feet.
Another option is to have a few private rooms for when employees need focus, peace and quiet for particular tasks. These can be designed with glass partitioning to keep that all important natural light.
Whatever your thoughts on the open plan office design it is true it may not suit every business or even every employee within a business. It is important to look at how a business runs. The day-to-day tasks of each individual employee. Design the space to work for you.