Is open plan design better than office cubicles? | WindowArt

You’re bound to have noticed the exciting evolution that office design has undergone over the past few years. Gone are the claustrophopic, dark office cubicles and closed offices of traditional office design. In their place, we’ve been seeing open plan layouts that encourage collaboration, connection and movement in the workplace. Earlier in the year, we wrote a blog about the hottest office design trends for 2014, where we spoke about the growing popularity of these kinds of open plan office design.

Despite the current popularity of open plan office design, it isn’t working for everyone.

Many modern offices have adopted an open plan layout. However, many workers are now reporting that they find open plan office design to be too distracting, making it difficult to work. Many employees working in open plan offices wish they had a place to hunker down in private and really get stuck into their work without any distractions.

The problem is that there are many different types of work and many different types of workers. Some people are easily distracted and prefer working environments that provide privacy and quiet. Other people perform best when they’re able to spontaneously collaborate with others and have no problem zoning in on what they’re doing, no matter the surrounding noise level or distractions. Furthermore, many employees are tasked with different types of work in one day; some that requires collaboration and some that requires deep, solitary concentration.

Google saw this coming.

There’s a reason why Google is commonly considered the best company in the world to work for. Actually, there are a host of reasons. One of them, however, is the fact that Google offices incorporate elements of both open plan design and office cubicles. Here’s what Christopher Coleman, Google’s former director of global design, had to say on the subject: “We found that [employees] need a lot of diversity. There are so many ways to work – as a team, solo – and so many kinds of workers, from introverts to extroverts and so on. We create many different places so people can be as productive as possible – from formal and informal conference rooms to open spaces to stretching and yoga areas and gyms.”

Of course, not everyone has the resources to build an office that includes yoga areas and gyms. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the principle that Google’s office design is based on: diversity.

Incorporate the best of both worlds.

In a study performed by design firm Gensler, it was found that workers spend more than half their time at work in deep focus and only one-fourth in collaboration. The rest of their time is split between learning, socializing and other tasks.

The answer, then, is to design a space that includes both collaborative areas and private workstations. This allows employees to move between areas as their work requires; holding brainstorming sessions on a cluster of beanbags in a casual, open plan area and then moving off to secluded office cubicles when they need to get their teeth deep into a complex spreadsheet or produce a challenging piece of content.

Frosted window vinyl is a useful tool for providing privacy while still promoting collaboration.

Glass is a popular material for office cubicles, and for good reason. Glass allows light to permeate the workspace, promotes a feeling of openness and connectedness and looks ultra-chic. However, glass office cubicles can still result in employees being easily distracted and may not provide a real sense of privacy. Applying frosted window vinyl to glass office cubicles allows employees to enjoy privacy without feeling as though they’re stuck in a dark dungeon. Vinyl frosting can also be used to introduce creativity into your office design as vinyl decals can display company logos, motivational lettering or custom artwork.

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