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Has open plan had its day?

Open plan offices have suffered a bit of a backlash in recent times. Everyone's looking for the next big idea and the standard open plan environment doesn't really pass muster for a lot of us any more. Often viewed in the negative, open plan has been classed as stale, constricting, noisy and oppressive in the last few years.

In an age where staff retention has become an issue and companies are competing on many levels to attract the right individuals, the working environment currently stands under the spotlight. When sizes of salaries have been checked and promotion opportunities covered, businesses are measured, by prospective employees, in terms of the benefits that they can provide.

The office space itself can be considered as one of those benefits and perks or a reason to swiftly move on, depending on how that space is broken down and utilized. As open plan has been heavily criticized for being noisy and distracting, with an overall lack of privacy, careful space planning needs to be engaged to address these challenges in order for the office environment to truly appeal. Leading office refurbishment and fit out companies such as Saracen Interiors take space planning very seriously working closing with clients to ensure staff are content and the most efficient solution is provided.


There is a requirement now for fresher, more indulgent, employee-friendly, open plan offices containing a mix of different spaces. Its still open plan - it's just markedly different. This new open plan allows employees the option to trundle about with their laptops, working from different locations including more relaxed, chill out zones, break time areas, comfy sofas, desks and private offices etc.

As most office jobs include a mix of requirements, including tasks which demand complete concentration, a range of spaces is a perfect solution and the best way to ensure better performance and maximum output from a team. 


We've come a long way from the early open plan office design spaces which dominated the first half of the last century, running well into the 1960's and beyond. These early open plan office environments aped factory lines, with workers sitting behind small desks and in straight rows, all facing the same way - a bit like school.

A more scattered, busier approach then followed on, mixing managers in with juniors and encouraging discussion and debate. Since then, we have flirted with banks of desks and various height levels of dividers in an attempt to achieve an optimum environment for all.

The pendulum continues to swing and there are some who would welcome individual offices with management separated out and given their own four walls, as pre-dated the common use of open plan.

Most, however, would probably opt for a more varied, less uniform, use of space to allow workers the option to retreat when background noise proves too intrusive; collaborating and joining in when it's more conducive to the task in hand.

A recent spotlight in Mix Interiors magazine revealed that of office workers canvassed, 62 per cent were bothered by a lack of opportunity for privacy in the workplace, with noise being the most often cited source of annoyance. This if often not taken into account when doing an office refurbishment or fit out.

It should be acknowledged that people respond differently to background noise. Some individuals prefer to work with a radio, for example, where as others struggle when bombarded by a certain level of noise. Getting the level right can prove difficult.

The best approach for any employer is to give their employees as many options as possible, including the opportunity to occasionally work from home if a project requires concentration and there is no quiet space available for the employee to retreat to.

We live in a society where choice is to be celebrated - it liberates us and gives us control. If we can choose how we work within the workplace itself, we will be happier to spend time there and we will get more done. Contentment oils the wheels for most office workers - we just need to bear that in mind when we do the space planning.

Office space planning is not something to be taken likely as it can have a huge effect on productivity it would be worth calling on experts such as Saracen Interiors to assist to make the most of your office environment. Office design can have a huge impact on your business and should be taken seriously.


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