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Open office with a collaborative area near individual workstations.

How to Solve Common Problems with Open Offices

Open concept offices have been around for a long time. But since tech companies turned them into a symbol of innovation in the mid-2000s, they’ve been one of the most significant trends in office design. They’ve also been one of the most controversial office trends. Open plan offices were intended to improve communication and make people more collaborative – instead, many people complained about a lack of privacy, too much noise, and higher stress levels. 

However, open plan offices don’t have to be such a bad experience. Many of the most common complaints people have about open plan offices can be solved with careful design planning. Row of individual workstations in an office with privacy screens.

 

Privacy

By far, one of the most common complaints people have about open offices is the lack of privacy. Not only do people often not like feeling exposed and feel frustrated by having a hard time finding places to have private conversations, being able to see so much activity around the office can be a major distraction. According to one report, workers experience an average of 60 distractions during an 8-hour workday and it takes about 23 minutes to regain focus after a distraction. 

People don’t want to feel isolated from the rest of their coworkers, but they do need to be able to filter out distractions when they need to focus on their work. One simple solution is to include partitions on workstations to create a sense of privacy and make it easier for people to be less distracted by others moving around the office. For other areas of the office, such as lounge areas and other collaborative spaces, portable screens and seating with tall backs can create privacy and space definition without making permanent changes to a space. And for when people need to make phone calls, have private conversations, or simply work without interruptions, pods and phone booths provide the privacy people need. 

Desks in enclosed rooms in an office.

Noise

Without walls or cubicle partitions, it’s very easy for noise to carry throughout an office and make it difficult for people to concentrate on their work. Design features like hard floors and open ceilings can further add to the problem. Luckily, open offices and noise don’t have to go hand-in-hand. There are many solutions available that can help keep noise under control. 

One simple solution is to opt for carpeting instead of a hard floor. Wall-mounted acoustic panels and ceiling tiles are both also great options to consider. Or, if you like the idea of having an exposed ceiling, ceiling-mounted acoustic baffles and spray-on cellulose insulation can help you get the look while reducing noise. Working with a good design-build firm can help you find acoustic control solutions that are both functional and attractive.

Groups of tables near workstations in an open office.

Layout Issues

Many complaints people have with open offices can stem from problems with the office layout. For example, when companies decide to go for an open office, they often have a tendency to try and put as many people together in a space as they can, which can leave people feeling overcrowded. Or sometimes a layout leaves people who spend a lot of time doing quiet, focused work close to busy spaces, such as meeting areas and break rooms. Partnering with an experienced design firm can help eliminate some of these problems by working with you to develop an effective layout that gives people the breathing room they need and helps people be more productive. 

Need some help creating an open office? Contact Premier Construction & Design. We can work with you to create a space that’s highly functional and helps you avoid common open office complications. Take a look at our portfolio and case studies to see some examples of projects we’ve worked on.

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