Open plan offices have been taking it on the chin for a while now. And now Harvard is piling on with a study that says open plan configurations actually reduce face-to-face interactions instead of increasing them as commonly thought.
Inc. did an article in which their headline goes further to say open plans are the “dumbest management fad of all time.” They say this because of the reduced interactions Harvard claims.
They go on to say that the only reason left to justify an open floor plan is to save space and, therefore, money. In fact, the author of the article says that companies should just allow people to work from home since that’s less expensive than open plan offices.
I haven’t seen the Harvard study or the data that supports their claim, but from my own experience with clients in office buildings, the trend is still toward open offices. There are still offices, but they have a a lot of glass and are moving to the interior leaving the “cubes” to enjoy the windows.
In terms of working from home, some companies are moving employees home, but I see just as many bringing employees back into an office from home. They tell me they want their employees to feel like they are part of something. They want them to see each other and talk to each other. They feel that is more likely in an office.
I don’t see the open office trend ending anytime soon. I expect it will continue, but we will continue to see innovation in furniture design that provide better privacy and sound control while allowing for greater density that companies need to control costs and preserving openness. The open aesthetic is more pleasing than the old way of a bunch of offices blocking the windows and tall cubes in the “open” areas.
Bob Gibbons is a Real Estate Advisor & Tenant Advocate (also known as a tenant rep) with REATA Commercial Realty, Inc. which is a tenant advisory firm based in Plano, Texas. Bob serves companies in Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Allen, Richardson, Addison, Dallas and the surrounding areas and specializes in companies which lease or buy office and warehouse properties.