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An office is generally an area or a room or other area where people work and may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it.
The 20th century had defined industries and boundaries, that is, the ‘closed’ workplace whereas the 21st century does not.
Following the evolution of information technology throughout industries in the 21st century, the internet has brought about a change in the style of business transaction.
The 21st century office acknowledges that whilst work can be done without a shared workplace, the office environment is highly valued as a place for ideas, discussion, information and motivation.
Neither closed-plan nor open plan offices are perfect for any one situation. The ‘right balance’ is required.
A sea of cubicles, one type of open plan.
Advantages of open plan office
Open plan offices as compares to the closed plan offices are more advantageous for the employer as more spaces are provided and less separations in the office building thus reducing the financial cost when designing.
Communication is easier between work stations and departments as everyone is in the same area, hence no time is wasted in sharing of information.
Sharing of conversations may lead to faster recognition and resolution of issues..
When employees work in a closed office space, they can run themselves absurd with small tasks that are unnecessary in an open plan office.
Supervisors or the line managers have a better supervision on the employees as everyone is within the same compartment. Employees are been easily tracked. Decision making and problem solving are rapidly effected Things are easier for the supervisors, as everyone is in a centralized area. There is no need to track someone down from office to office. Generally, with an open office plan, managers and senior managers are in regular contact with their employees. This makes management issues and problem solving go faster.
Employees who are in constant contact with managers and senior managers, are able to reach management more quickly and deal with issues that get resolved more rapidly, as a result, this leads to more productivity.
Open space offices are more economical when it comes to finance for amenities such as air conditioning and electricity, that is, one centralized area is being heated, or cooled and lighted, which is opposed to several different rooms, each having to be heated or cooled separately. Hence, less capital is invested.
If the layout of the office needs to be changed, it can be done quickly and with minimal effort. If a closed plan office layout needs to be changed, serious issues can arise the way they never will with open office plans.
Disadvantages of open plan office
Australian scientists have reviewed a global pool of research into the effect of modern office design, concluding the shifting from closed office to open-plan has led to lower production and higher worker psychological stress. A comparison of the interaction between bosses and managers in open vs. closed-plan offices was made with the following outcomes:
Closed office or high-paneled cubicle: 82% work and 5% non-work
Open workstation is 64% work and 24% non-work.
Researcher Dr Vinesh Oommen from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said.
“In 90 per cent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”
“The high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity.”
Disadvantages of open plan office
Open space offices are noisier and can be more chaotic than closed plan offices. Employees are in one large area, and phone conversations or conversations between employees will be overheard easily. When there are several conversations happening at one time, it can get quite noisy. This can lead to employees becoming distracted which may lessen productivity.
People passing in front of someone’s desk can also cause distraction of employees.
In an open office space, security is reduced. Each employee lacks a lockable door like they would have if each one had a separate office. This can lead to risks and issues that the company may not want to face.
Privacy is difficult to obtain with an open office plan. If family members call, or if a confidential call needs to be made, it can be difficult. With individual offices, these things are more possible. Employees may feel uncomfortable being in such close quarters with their coworkers when confidential calls need to be made.
Sicknesses and infections can spread like wildfire in an environment like an open office plan. When flu season hits, you can bet that most employees will catch it.
Lighting, heating, and air conditioning to suit all of the employees’ tastes can be difficult to achieve. With a closed office plan, employees are able to keep their individual offices the way they like them.
Senior staff or employees which have been with the company longer than most will most likely feel as if they are entitled to a private office. This can cause problems among the employees, which can damage productivity and employee relationships.
In 2008, Dr V Oommen at QUT researched open plan offices and discovered that productivity was in fact reduced. He also found higher rates of interpersonal conflict, staff turnover and stress related medical problems. This brings into question the value of short term cost efficiencies. So, what can be done to reduce the potential toxicity of the open plan workplace?
Try to make your space as personalised as possible. Use some imagination. Try some greenery.
Orientate your chair and desk angles to minimise visual exposure to busy traffic areas in the office. Take some time to do this. Be prepared to experiment.
Make use of private spaces wherever possible, especially for important meetings.
Explore the issue of working from home for some part of the working week, if you find the open plan situation uncomfortable.
While open plan offices have their downsides, they can be quite effective if they are tailored to suit the needs of the business and the staff.
HOW TO FUNCTION IN AN OPEN PLAN OFFICE
Well-designed open-plan office maximize the use of space, which is not only economically beneficial the business, but a more congenial work space also boosts staff morale and efficiency, believe Lawrence Holmes, managing director of design House.
Network NewsFuture winners asked Holmes to address office workers’ questions and complaints about the open-plan office. Here is what he had to say.
How do we keep noise levels down? If a company has just made the move from private office to an open – plan environment, it is vital to coach staff to be aware of their new surroundings and that certain behaviors modifications are necessary in order to keep noise levels down.
Awareness is definitely the first clue to a less noisy environment. Staff then realizes the need for lowering the noise level, in particular their voices.
In addition, the use of sound- absorbing materials, such as acoustic ceiling tiles, sound-absorbing screening, good quality carpeting, pin boards also work towards keeping noise levels down.
What kind of changes do l need to make if l move from my private office to an open-plan one?
Another advantage of an open-plan office is that it forces people to reflect on how they conduct themselves and encourages them to be tidier and more productive.
Private offices are often untidy because they can be, whereas an open-plan desk is always on display. It is also suggested that staff member use headphones when they want to listen to their own music in an open office.
What do l do if l feel colleagues invade my personal space?
Modern open-plan offices are designed in such a way that enough space remains intact.
Screening is obviously a vital component of open-plan office and, when used effectively, personal space and privacy is retained.
What is ‘white noise’?
White noise is referred to as ‘hash,’ which simple put, is the sound a radio or television set makes when it is not turned in proper installation includes a good quality speaker system positioned in the ceiling.
The sound then falls through the ceiling tiles creating a sound barrier.
This actually adds to the noise this level, but detracts from other more recognizable noise.
This can often be fit is that can also be used as the public address system.
What are the advantages of an open-plan office?
Open-plan office maximizes the use of office space, which is more economically beneficial, encourages more staff interaction and creativity, allowing better teamwork.
How to work in an open plan office
Many work environments are now more open and fewer companies provide offices. This has many challenges and can decrease productivity however there are a few simple things you can try to make the most of this environment.
Have a clean Desk Policy
Get rid of all unnecessary paper, as it is a distraction. Clear desks are important for overall presentation and a clear desk policy will help you to be more organised and therefore productive. This is also good for company security to ensure you don’t leave important documents on your desk.
Don’t yell across the workstation
Walk over to someone’s workstation or use your e-mail or phone. Other people don’t need to hear your conversation.
Manage your phones. Try to answer your phone within 3 rings
The constant noise of desk phones and mobile phones can be distracting if someone is trying to complete a project. Be considerate. Turn down the volume of your desk phone. Select a mobile phone ring that won’t annoy others around you. Answer your neighbour’s phone if this is appropriate. If you will be away from your desk for a prolonged period of time, have your phone diverted.
Do not hold conversations outside others workstations
Be considerate. If you want to have a meeting, choose a space that won’t impact on others.
Keep things off the floor surrounding your desk
Keep your paperwork and any other items within your desk area.
Store things under your desk
If you need more space use the area under your desk and not the walkways.
If you are listening to music keep it down or invest in a pair of headphones.
Headphones are a great way to show other people you are working on something and don’t want to be disturbed.
Book a meeting room for more than two people.
If you are using a meeting room or the Board Room, tidy it up before you leave. Always leave the room in a neat and tidy fashion for the next meeting.
If you do answer someone else’s phone
Take a message and e-mail the details immediately, as pieces of paper may go missing.
Surround yourself with inspiration or something that is meaningful for you i.e. a photo of your family, but don’t overdo it.
You want your workstation to look professional as you are on show to everyone around you.
Keep your voice down
If your voice tends to carry, you are loud or you have a unique voice (like me), be aware of the volume of your voice so you don’t interrupt other people.
Make the most of your open plan environment by trying these simple tips
An office landscape floor plan, another type of open plan.
When determining an office, it is important to consider the right design in the right balance such as:
the age of the person (generally, the older the employees, the more they prefer to be in private)
the responsibility of an individual in the organizational hierarchy
catering for the privacy of the staff
setting a policy for communication – internal communication is simple
eliminating as far as practically the factors that can cause distraction
avoid the conflicting issues which can be due to smoking
regulating the right temperature
arrangement of working areas is more flexible and allows for further staff
the surrounding are lighted and airy
Based on the research works effected, it can be concluded that the open plan office is advantageous to the employer rather than the employee. The effectiveness of the business can be enhanced by taking the above-mentioned factors into consideration, hence creating a better working environment which will finally lead to motivation, team work, high moral and better productivity.
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