HR · Startups

Do open workspaces hurt productivity?

Rachel Zheng Business Development Manager at Honyee Media

April 24th, 2015

I've longed worked in open office layouts and I like them and think high cubes are anti-social. But was ready this statement by someone who went from closed to open work plan and there is some truth wondering what people to increase productivity in an open office or if it's not that big a deal to worry about?
"As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. My productivity has taken a hit"

Avrum Mayman Innovator, Entrepreneur, Product Visionary

April 25th, 2015

I've worked in both as well, and find the open office a big drag on productivity - even having headphones on doesn't stop someone from interrupting you when you're in mid-thought.  What often is neglected in both environments is having enough "closed" space like conference rooms and phone booths so that serious collaboration, or quiet thought can happen without disruption.


April 30th, 2015

Let's not kid ourselves here. Open floor plan offices have nothing to do with productivity or social cohesion. They are about cost cutting. Nothing more. Quit trying to read magic into everything Facebook does.

Brent Goldstein

April 25th, 2015

In my experience managing teams for a long time, the focus on "increasing collaboration with an open workspace" misses the point. Goals include productivity, collaboration and employee happiness. A completely open space rarely accomplishes this, for many of the reasons described above, although may be pursued as a fad-approach by business leaders. My personal feeling is that people need a good sense of personal space, and it's a matter of accomplishing this with the physical layout and still ensuring collaboration. But achieving a collaborative team goes way beyond the physical space; the leadership must drive engagement through manager-contributor and contributor-contributor structured activities. My takeaway, totally open spaces may not meet the goal, can sometimes be counter-productive, and technical leaders must figure out the best solutions to make the team work well, independent of management trends.

Kris Young Optop-Mechanical Engineer at Advanced Energy

April 25th, 2015

I agree completely with the comment that many places don't have enough space allocated for conference rooms and phone booths!  The right answer seems to be that we all need both an open atmosphere and a closed atmosphere at different times and for different people / work types. 

Interestingly I've never head of someone being asked which they would prefer when they start at a new company...  As an employer wouldn't it be in my best interest to help maximize the productivity (and happieness) of my new employee?

Amir Yasin Developer, Architect

April 24th, 2015

Anecdotal evidence aside research shows open office spaces aren't very good. I also personally find them to be troublesome. I can get just as much collaboration without them and much higher productivity.

Karen Leventhal

April 25th, 2015

As a former Myers-Briggs personality profile trainer, you've got introverts and extroverts. A open layout maybe fantastic for extroverts, who need interaction. But it's tortuous for introverts who need quiet and concentration.  So there is the acknowledgement that we are different. For me, I think I would literally have to turn down jobs were there was no quiet space, as I don't think I could function properly. I was thinking about what I would do when we get huge and famous (ha, ha, hopefully). I think I would make flexible space. Private offices and a big open flexible workspace in the middle for anyone, introvert or extrovert who wants to be more collaborative and social. People could use the space as needed.

Marc Rowen

April 25th, 2015

I never cared enough to save them, but have come across several articles claiming that open workspaces do indeed cut productivity. As some here have alluded, productivity does not necessarily equate to quality, or for that matter, creativity. And there are other company culture issues to take into account.

Having worked in a number of different environments, I've never heard a complaint that a space was too closed, and have heard many complaints about open workspaces. And in cases where there were a mix of open areas or cubicles and offices (solo or shared), I don't know of anyone who said no to moving into an office. I'm sure the complaints and preferences are not solely related to productivity, though.

Thomas Loarie "Bringing Entrepreneurs and Technology to Life" CEO and Chairman, Mentoring and Coaching of C-Level Executives

April 26th, 2015

I have worked in both. I started my career in aerospace with 300 engineers in an open space format. Our group leader sat in the open space with us. As I look, back, there were many advantages. Yes, there were distractions but also many impromptu meetings. continuous sharing among team members, and trust. I then entered the healthcare industry and the world of offices. Yes, I could concentrate and could manage distractions but I also learned that conversation was not free flowing and trust was variable. Now, I support a hybrid which incorporates the best of both. I spent time at IDEO two years ago studying what they have done to insure not only productivity but also collaboration and trust. The answer is not either/or. There are some very innovative solutions - solutions that allow companies to meet the challenges of today's turbulent world. 

Kim Janiga

April 28th, 2015

According to the book "Quiet, The power of introverts" by Susan Cain, open office spaces are not suited for everyone, specially introverts and I have to agree. This book is an excellent eye opener for anyone, specifically introverts who want to understands themselves better and have a sense of appreciation for their unique strengths which have most often been undervalued and also a good read for people in management. 

Here are a couples of quotes from the book:

"Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They're associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile unmotivated, and insecure."

" performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.p. 84-85

Taylor Dondich Vice President of Engineering at MaxCDN

April 29th, 2015

Ask yourself this.  In an open office, can you surround yourself with people that inspire you.  Can you position yourself near amazing people who are high in thought and aggressive in action.  These are the people you want to be in an open workplace with.

Coworking spaces that focus on startups that actually execute are a fantastic example.  However, if you get a few people in there that are not as productive, it will spread like a virus.  It's amazing seeing this happen.

If you choose an open workspace, choose the people around you carefully.  This goes for public open spaces as well as internal offices.