The Bottom Line: The Open Floor Plan Is The Death of Productivity
The open floor plan is super popular and many companies went to this model over the last decade. As an introvert, but also an INFJ, I love and hate the open floor plan. I have worked in an open floor plan, a partial cube situation, and a full on high wall cube. I think my favorite was the partial cube where we had low walls but I had a cube-mate and it was still easy to talk to everyone. I hated the high wall cube and am so-so on the open floor plan, which is my current environment. Being a personality that overthinks things, I have thought extensively about the pro’s and con’s of the open floor plan. Here are my observations!
It’s easy to ask questions - As someone who can have trouble getting courage to ask questions, the open floor plan makes it easier. I can turn to my neighbor and ask something based on what she said. I am not afraid of interrupting them, because I can clearly see they are off the phone.
Relationships - Due to the absence of privacy, it’s easier to form relationships with your team. Since you can literally hear every word your neighbor says, it’s easier to form bonds. When you hear your desk-mate on an awful conversation, you naturally ask about it.
Collaboration - I think this is one of the main positives that advocates of this plan touted. I totally agree, it’s so easy to work together on things because we are so accessible to each other. I work on a team that all have similar jobs, so hearing what the others are going through it’s great to put our minds together and come to one solution.
Noise - Working on an open floor, it gets LOUD. Sometimes it’s so loud I literally can’t hear the other people on the line. When your role is to counsel managers on employee issues, that can be a real problem. I also frequently have to put my line on mute because others on the call comment on how loud the background noise is.
Concentration - Being someone who needs quiet to concentrate, it’s super frustrating to work in an open environment. If I have projects I need to focus on, I have to put headphones in to block out the noise. I feel like I am being rude at times, but if I don’t do it, I just can’t focus on what I am doing.
Interruptions - Working on an open floor invites people to interrupt you. Even if you are clearly in the middle of a phone call or in the zone on your computer, it will not stop your co-workers from coming up to you. Even if they aren’t purposely interrupting you, just overhearing their conversations is bound to derail your productivity.
As with anything, there are good things and bad about the open floor plan. While it’s awesome for collaboration, I do think it lowers productivity. I can get so much more done at home without all the distractions of the office. At the same time, I wouldn’t have the same innovation I have if it weren’t for the collaboration I have with my teammates. To be honest, the best option for me is a combo of working from home, open floor plan, but also having a quiet space for taking calls.