Choose the office layout that's right for your company and your team dynamic.
- Today, many office spaces do not look like the traditional "cube farms" of the past.
- There are many office layouts that can encourage collaboration.
- There are a variety of ways to design work spaces to foster productivity and camaraderie among your employees.
Gone are the days when every company had endless rows of cubicles, as open layouts and other styles of work spaces are becoming more common. Indeed, there are a variety of office layouts and sizes, and what's best for one business might not be great for another. The key is to choose the type of office space that best suits your company's needs and team dynamics.
"No office layout is perfect," said Alexander Lowry, director of the Master of Science in Financial Analysis program and a professor of finance at Gordon College. "To try and make it perfectly suited to your company and culture, consider the type of work you do and your office culture."
Nate Masterson, marketing manager at Maple Holistics, outlined the pros and cons of each type, to help you choose the right one for your business.
An open office has staff working in a single room, either sharing tables or working at independent desks in an unrestricted space.
"An office full of social people who need to work together to be successful would benefit from an open office layout versus cubes with high walls (or even offices)," Lowry said.
- Less restrictive
- Encourages communication
"Transparency and some lack of clear office hierarchy can do a lot to motivate a team," Masterson said. "Seeing your manager occupy the same space as you do, and having the ability to mingle more – it does something to the office vibe."
- Lack of privacy
- Spread of germs
Many of these downsides, including the feeling that your boss is watching your every move, often stress out employees, Masterson said.
Cubicles are partly enclosed workspaces with high walls to separate each worker from those around them. If your team needs peace and privacy to work, Lowry said, you'd do best with this setup.
"Recognize that some staff roles require concentration and an ability to get away from others/noise," he said.
- More private
- Easier to focus
- More room to work
- Personalized work space
"It's not as if there are no distractions in this choice of layout, but a cubicle could be potentially quieter and more conducive to workflow and concentration," Masterson said.
- Can be isolating
- Requires more space
- Breeds less interaction
"In some cases, employees have associated cubicles with the soullessness and coldness of Corporate America," Masterson said.
Hoteling is a system of unassigned seating where employees frequently change work spaces. For example, if your team works from home or travels often, you don't need to invest in a permanent work space for every employee; they can shift based on who is in the office on any given day.
"Hoteling works best if many of your staff travel," Lowry said. "Consulting is a classic example. Clients have your staff at their site. As a result, you don't need to pay for a lot of real estate, and your team, when they are occasionally in the office, can work from any desk."
- Saves money
- Encourages collaboration
- Changes scenery
"It makes for an easy getaway in case your current neighbors are too distracting or noisy," Masterson said. "Just change seats. Boom, problem solved."
- Less personal
"Unless you're aware of precisely where someone is sitting that day, it may be more difficult to locate them within the office space," Masterson said.
Additionally, he said, you need to respect that it isn't your desk. That means no pictures of your family, friends or pets, and no food or other items stored in the drawers.
Co-working spaces usually involve a few people sharing an office or a desk. In some cases, these spaces can be separated based on projects, departments or even cross-collaboration.
This office layout is ideal for companies that have a great deal of group work to complete and thus require access to open communication that would not be feasible in cubicle settings. This setting is similar to that of an open office, but it creates a sense of compartmentalization for specific tasks and groups, rather than just keeping each employee in a single space.
- Fosters camaraderie and collaboration
- Can be distracting
- Not private enough for in-office meetings
- Not everyone likes a shared space
Co-working spaces are great for residential spaces turned into offices. For example, some dormitories on college campuses have been turned into office spaces, with employees sharing rooms and lounge areas. Instead of knocking down walls and reconstructing, co-working spaces can be a way to utilize the space that your company acquires.
This office layout is similar to that of a cubicle, but the walls are low enough to peek over. These low partitions are great for separating belongings, but they do not necessarily help block noise.
In some cases, this balance is great for employees: If they need to ask a question or require clarity for a project, the layout is open enough to provide that ability yet separated enough to help employees feel like they have control of their work space.
- Defined individual work space
- Semiopen communication
- Lack of privacy
Low partitions provide a happy medium between open office layouts and cubicles. If you want to have the best of both worlds, this might be a good option.