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PNovember 20, 2013

Planning Your Office: Open Office Layout Promotes Teamwork and Can Save Money

Choosing an open office layout over a more traditional, closed office layout has its pros and cons.  Generally, people have strong opinions one way or the other!

The perceived cons, in brief, are frequently reality-based:  no privacy, too much interruption, noise, low productivity and job tasks that just are not suited to an open plan. Many people on the “con side” of the open office layout are people who fear a transition to this option, people who assign self-worth and status to the size of their office and people, who have been accustomed to working in a closed office environment.

Let’s look at some of the pros.

Open office layouts can provide opportunities for increased teamwork, idea sharing, support and more productivity.  If designed well, they can also provide more employees access to natural daylight than closed office layouts.  Natural daylight has been shown to improve morale and productivity.

Open office layout

From a real estate perspective, an article on the Whole Building Design Guide website (a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences) identifies that the average square footage (sf) needed per person for a fully open office plan is 172 sf vs. 229 sf per person in a fully closed office setting.  The comparison was based on a 20,500 usable square foot office suite.  When the square footage is then factored into a lease, the annual savings per employee can be great.  This tangible financial difference may “move the needle” on design decisions as they relate to real estate decisions.  Annual rental savings can be used elsewhere – benefits, parking subsidies, perks.

More cost savings can be found when reviewing tenant fit out and renovation costsOpen office plan construction has less cost in all of the physical elements that go into closed office plan construction.  In closed office plan construction the physical items include framing and drywall, paint, wall base, doors, frames and hardware.  Less apparent is the electric work to separate out light fixtures, additional fire alarm speakers and sprinkler heads to address coverage breaks created by the walls and more work to the HVAC system to provide supply and return air to the offices.  There is less construction waste as well.  Lastly, the construction project durations for open plan offices generally take less time to complete.  Shorter construction durations contribute positively to the bottom line.

Some people will claim that the furniture systems for an open office layout are too expensive.  There are two ways to combat this perception.  1) Do a thorough comparison with a traditional office furniture set up – apples to apples.  It is easy to see a difference if the company intends to re-use existing traditional furniture and then to say new open office space furniture costs too much.  Compare all new furniture in each scenario.  2) Investigate the availability of lightly used or “re-skinned” furniture systems.  With the recession still affecting companies, it is not hard to find this product because of the many downsizings that occurred in the commercial marketplace.

There is no doubt that an open office plan is a commitment.  Making a decision to move to an open plan office is not a small one, but the change could be very beneficial depending on your company’s wants and needs.

 
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