4 types of open-plan office: which one works for you?

Open-plan offices have become almost the norm in a variety of industries over the past 10 years.

There are key reasons for this. Open plan offices are great for encouraging communication between staff, for creating a flatter hierarchy and for boosting an “open door” policy.

Gone are the days of many small offices, with the exception of industries such as legal firms who prefer privacy.

Open plan offices are great for encouraging communication between staff and for boosting an open door policy.

The other main reason for their popularity is that they generally end up being less expensive to fitout and make good at the expiration of the lease.

When addressing your ideal open-plan layout you will need to consider a number of factors. Your final choice will depend on the size of your business, the location and the type of business you have. You should also consider noise levels, privacy, workflow and communications.

Read more: Office fitouts: what can they do for your business?

The four styles of open-plan office are:

1. Cubicle

This is one of the most common types of open office plans, where the workstations are set up as cubicles, generally with three walls of partitioning around them. This layout provides the greatest level of privacy outside of a closed office plan and can help control noise levels, especially when good sound barriers are used for the partitioning.

The downside to cubicles is that they can be quite claustrophobic and limit the amount of natural light in each workstation. A simple solution is to use glass panels instead of heavy wall dividers to allow natural light in and create the illusion of more space whilst still keeping noise down.

2. Half partitions

Half partitions allow workers to see and speak to each other over the barriers when standing. These act as a space divider and help absorb some level of noise, but are generally less private than cubicle designs. If the office has employees who work in teams, half partitions can help with communication between team members while still allowing for more natural light throughout the office.

If the office has employees who work in teams, half partitions can help with communication.

The negative to half partitions is that some team members may find it hard to concentrate due to increased noise levels. There is also limited privacy when it comes to phone conversations. If you do choose this style, have a couple of closed spaces available for private conversations and one-on-one meetings.

3. Team enclosures

Team offices allow members of the same team to work together without losing focus and getting distracted by people not in their immediate team. This is great for creative teams where brainstorming and discussion are a large part of the day to day. Ideas flow and can be discussed right away instead of waiting for a booked meeting room or calling for a formal discussion.

However, individual privacy is a downside to this style, as well as limitation to people not in a specific team.

4. One large, open space

This style is suited more to smaller setups and quieter environments, where partitioning may not be required. In this type, individuals will work side by side at adjoining stations. This style of open-plan might work well for micro business owners or freelancers looking for desk rentals in the city CBD. This space will have a big, open and collaborative feel while also providing a quiet environment.

Read more: Coworking space – an alternative to the traditional office

A hint if you opt for open space: consider locking away sensitive information, such as banking and payroll materials. This can be easily managed with a lockable drawer or working with a laptop that can travel home with you.

So there are a few options to consider when deciding on what layout to choose for your open-plan office.

Remember, with people spending more time at work than they do at home, it is an important decision to make not only for you but for your team as well. With this comes the compromise that if your company favours an open-plan configuration, the company needs to ensure a ‘break out’ area that is enticing to staff for lunch, recreation and possible ‘brain storming’ group activities.

Read more: Tips to find your first office space