What Are Open Plan Offices? (With Definition and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

Companies might use open office plans to promote collaboration and conversation among employees. Managers can arrange one big space for employees to have their own desks without physical confinement. Learning about open plan offices and how they can benefit your productivity may help you feel more comfortable in this office layout. In this article, we define what open plan offices are, explore the types of open office plans in the work environment, provide some benefits of this office layout and discuss how you can work well in these types of surroundings.

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What are open plan offices?

Learning the answer to 'What are open plan offices?' can help you understand an office layout and how you might expect to work in that environment. An open office plan is a work environment plan designed to encourage face-to-face collaboration among employees. Most employees have their own desks in the same room and can talk to people over low cubicles or dividers that separate desks. Some managers use this open office plan to help employees interact with team members and spontaneously brainstorm new ideas with people next to them.

The idea of open plan offices is to eliminate physical walls between desks and create a large space for desks and office equipment. This plan may help managers to locate employees and monitor their progress throughout the day. Open offices might also have lounge areas that allow people to eat their lunch with others and grab a coffee during breaks. Some offices may have kitchen areas, media rooms, comfortable seating and gaming gadgets that help employees to feel more relaxed in the workplace. Comfortable employees are likely to feel more satisfied, which can boost team morale and encourage productivity.

Related: Top 10 Tips on How to Work Collaboratively in the Workplace

4 types of open plan offices

Here are four types of open plan offices:

1. Cubicle office layout

Employees may work in their own cubicles with three walls separating them from other workstations. This plan reduces the noise level in the office and provides employees with some privacy. Companies might use this office layout to encourage employees to move around while engaging in conversations. Some companies use glass panels for the three surrounding walls, as this can allow natural sunlight to brighten up the cubicles.

For example, people working in administration might use the cubicle office layout plan to answer calls privately and focus on concealing payroll information. If companies want employees' work to remain confidential, they can install cubicles in a large room and ensure the walls are high enough to hide work, but low enough that employees can talk to each other. This layout is beneficial for people who prefer to keep their work confidential.

2. Fully open layout

This layout is suitable for smaller companies and quieter environments that focus on independent projects. Employees may work side by side at workstations that don't require surrounding walls. This may help them navigate modern technology in the workplace. For example, they can access printers next to them without walking to a separate room. Open layouts can also help employees engage in casual conversation with team members. Companies that encourage collaboration usually choose these layouts to help employees share ideas.

Small business owners might plan fully open spaces for small teams. This layout can help everyone openly discuss important topics without having to arrange meetings. Open discussions also save time because employees don't have to take time away from their current schedule to attend a formal meeting as often. Some open layouts sometimes offer more private areas to reduce distractions when completing tasks that require deep concentration. Having the choice between open conversations and private rooms may help employees make the best decisions for their productivity and work performance.

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3. Half-partition walls

Companies might use the half-partition office layout if they prefer employees to stand up and have conversations. For example, team members can stand from their seats to talk rather than travel between different cubicles in the room. This plan still involves cubicles in sectioned rows, although the surrounding glass walls are much lower and give employees a chance to discuss projects. Employees who require privacy for their work but enjoy interacting with team members might prefer the half-partition office plan to the cubicle layout.

Managers can choose this plan if they want more sunlight in the office. More sunlight can increase productivity among employees and brighten the work environment by inviting natural warm colours to the office. People can focus on completing their work without visual distractions around them.

4. Team pods layout

Some companies use the team pods office layout to separate employees into groups of dedicated teams. For example, if people are working in teams on separate projects, the manager might arrange meeting rooms for the teams to work and discuss ideas privately. This is good for creative teams who want to brainstorm and present project designs to the rest of the group. Employees may prefer this to group meetings once or twice a week.

This layout may help employees to work together and concentrate their energy on completing shared tasks. Team pods don't always include private meeting rooms, as companies may arrange groups of desks for the teams to work on. Managers that encourage strong teamwork in the company may use this office plan in the workplace.

Related: 11 Advantages of Working as a Team (An Overview of Teamwork)

Benefits of open office plans

Here are some benefits of working in offices that have open floor plans:

Improved communication

Having open office plans can encourage people to converse about projects and engage in mutual conversations with colleagues. This might help employees to develop their communication skills when listening to feedback from others around them. When people grow more comfortable with workplace communication, they might learn non-verbal communication strategies that can help them initiate meaningful and relevant conversations.

Related: Why Interpersonal Communication Is So Important at Work

More creative opportunities

People who work in the same space can brainstorm creative ideas and request feedback on their projects. This might provide more opportunities for employees to develop their creative and collaboration skills. For example, if people work in teams on certain projects, they can frequently suggest new ideas that might increase their productivity and work performance. More opportunities for creativity are important for personal development.

Greater workplace flexibility

Open plan offices give employees and managers a chance to walk around the workplace and have spacious workstations in the room. Some people might rearrange the furniture to suit their personal needs and how they prefer to work. Offices with greater space also encourage team members to visit different cubicles and interact with each other. Spacious environments might look cleaner and more appealing to employees in the workstations.

How to work effectively in open plan offices

Some people have different techniques on how they work in open offices. This can depend on their type of open office plan and what environments they feel comfortable working in. Managers may negotiate floor plans with employees beforehand. Here's a guide you can follow when learning how to work effectively in open plan offices:

1. Practise self-discipline

Learning self-discipline techniques can help you get straight back into work. You might take frequent breaks that allow you to speak to colleagues for a certain amount of time. If you want to maintain your focus throughout the day, you can schedule 10 minute breaks that give you a chance to chat in lounge areas. Once you're back in the workstation, you can halt further conversations until you're ready to communicate again.

Related: Self-Discipline: Definition and Tips for Development

2. Walk around the space

You can walk around the open floor plan to help you navigate cubicles and workstations that belong to colleagues. You might find familiarising yourself with the office's layout useful if you need to locate specific equipment or a colleague for assistance. An open office also allows more room to move around. Regularly standing and moving your body can improve your blood circulation and encourage better concentration.

3. Arrange your workstation

Organising your laptop and office supplies may increase your productivity when working in a cleaner environment. You can use filing systems that separate confidential documents from the normal ones. If you're in the fully open office plan layout, you can request locked drawers that protect important information. Knowing that your workstation is safe may help you feel comfortable leaving the space during breaks.

4. Create schedules for daily tasks

It may be a good idea to create schedules that detail your daily tasks and responsibilities. This can help you focus on completing tasks throughout the day. You can write a timetable that gives you a set number of hours to complete each task on the computer. For example, you may allocate the first hour of your day to complete administrative tasks, then assign two hours to focus on writing a piece for a project.

Next, you can allow yourself a 10-15 minute break where you can move around and grab refreshments. Working with hourly slots can encourage you to complete tasks within that time frame and reach daily deadlines. You may also feel fresher when returning to tasks.