The open-plan office layout was first introduced in 1936 when Frank Lloyd Wright created a spacious, light-filled open office space for the SC Johnson Administration Building. However, not long after this ingenious space was constructed, workspaces began venturing far from the design that Wright originally had in mind.

Workspaces began to shrink. Individual desks and space to walk throughout were quickly replaced with long community tables with a few too many chairs and computer monitors covering them. The “open” layout was beginning to feel overcrowded and uncomfortable.

We went from…

I know what you’re thinking...that office on the right looks gorgeous, modern, trendy. It may be all of those things, but we’re lacking one key element...personal space.

This specific point leads me right into pros versus cons of today’s open office design.

Pro

The most talked about open office advantage...increased collaboration and interaction. It’s difficult not to converse with your coworkers when you’re sitting less than an arm’s length away from them. The open design is meant to encourage teamwork and conversation in an interactive environment. After all, we’re more creative and can produce better quality work in less time if we work together instead of individually.

Con

This wall-less space is both visually distracting and loud. What can you expect from a room designed to stimulate more conversation? Employees who complete most of their work individually are now most likely less productive and efficient than they were in their private office cubicles and they’re unable to block out the countless distractions.

Pro

This design is far more cost-effective to manufacture. Construction costs are greatly reduced with the lack of walls, cubicle panels, partitions, and private offices. All you need is a large open space and a few tables and chairs. However, this makes the open layout more advantageous for the business owners, not the employees.

Con

To keep this straightforward...this workspace is uncomfortable for anyone forced to work there for eight hours a day. You’re crowded, distracted, unfocused, and you have no control over your environment. What happened to privacy and personal space?

Pro

There is a huge amount of flexibility involved with this design. You’re starting with a blank slate, an empty room. Rearrange and reconfigure your tables (or desks, if you’re lucky) as many times as you’d like. If you decide to eliminate the open workspace altogether, there’s no need to tear down walls or cubicles before you get started.

Con

Like I’ve previously mentioned, employees feel a lack of control over their environment. They can’t control how much space or privacy they have, they can’t eliminate the numerous distractions, and in this group space, they have no individual opinion on the amount of light in the room or the room temperature.

Pro

We can all agree, this open office space looks modern and trendy. The bright, clean workspace looks like it came straight out of a magazine. It draws you in doesn’t it? It looks like I might actually want to work in that environment.

Con

With all employees sitting in such close quarters, an increased number of collective sick days are taken. It’s really not hard to believe. One person gets sick and it quickly spreads around the whole office.

Pro

Without walls and cubicle panels blocking windows and hiding employees, natural light is free to flow throughout the space. We won’t feel like we’re hidden from the outside world anymore because we can actually look over and see the outdoors instead of rubbing our eyes and blinking repeatedly when stepping out from behind our dark cubicle walls.

Con

Open-plan office environments are loud and stressful. Studies have proven that this open environment negatively impacts stress levels, anxiety, attention spans, creative thinking, memory, and overall employee well-being. This is not something that you should want for your company.

While it’s clear that open-plan offices have their disadvantages, I can also understand why certain companies choose the floor plan. It’s a prime, flexible, cost-efficient solution for any small and growing business. Which office layout do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!