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Why An Open Office Plan Might Not Be the Best Plan

February 2, 2018 | by Haley Walker
Reviewed by real estate expert Michael Colacino

We’ve all seen pictures of or, if you’re lucky enough, maybe even have been in a cool office. We’re talking about a really cool office. At Google’s headquarters, also known as the Googleplex, employees have access to amenities such as professional masseurs, a slide, and not one but two swim-in-place pools. Over at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters you’ll find gorgeous artwork (much of which is spontaneously created by employees), incredible (and free) dining options, and a 9 acre park that features over 400 trees on the roof.

Slide inside of Google’s Googleplex

Many people dream of having perks like these but, in reality, the most important amenity that modern workers want in their office is a place where they can focus and work without interruptions. When surveyed by Oxford Economics about their feelings on their workplace, 68% of people ranked the ability to work with little to no interruption as one of the three most important aspects. This is compared to a mere 7% when asked about amenities such as free food and on-site daycare.

While implementing an open floor plan is a rapidly growing trend in offices, a strong design plan is needed to implement the style in a way where you can reap the benefits of having it. Many company executives, however, aren’t getting that message. In many cases, they’re just sticking people in an open room and saying ‘here you go.’ As they try to save money and emulate the collaborative model of some successful Silicon Valley and San Francisco startups, one of the least considered aspects in office design is the desire to minimize distractions.

In fact, nearly two thirds of execs surveyed say that employees have what they need to deal with distractions, but less than half of employees actually agree with that statement. A possible reason for this disconnect is that many executives work under different circumstances than regular employees. Executives are much more likely to have private offices and different technology, so they may have trouble understanding the full extent of the distractions their employees face.

Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park Headquarters

Even Millennials, who many think would flourish in a workplace environment where they can socialize and have access to a wide range of free perks, prioritize a space with little distractions. They are also more likely to say that noise distracts them from their work and that they find ambient noise in the office particularly annoying.

Members of the younger generation are likely to take steps to counteract the noise in the office, such as listening to music or leaving their desks. In this situation, it becomes increasingly difficult to collaborate with these employees because they are actively trying to avoid those around them. When this becomes the case, the open floor plan actually creates the exact opposite of the transparent, collaborative environment it was intentioned to encourage.

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