How to Design an Effective Open Office Layout

Open office layouts are becoming steadily more popular in businesses across America. They allow for a more relaxed working environment and for greater collaboration between the members of your team.

However, they do come with drawbacks. Working in an open-plan office makes it more difficult to get the privacy that some staff members need to work on complex tasks or take phone calls requiring privacy.

These are issues that can be resolved if you are mindful of them in your open office design.

What are the benefits of an open-plan office?

There are plenty of benefits to working in an open-plan office environment for both the employee and the employer.

For the employer, one of the most compelling reasons to choose an open plan office rather than one separated into cubicles is the cost. It costs around $24,000 to set up 50 standing desks for an open-plan office. The cost of setting up 50 cubicles is over double this at $60,000.

It’s also possible to fit more people into a smaller area if you choose an open plan office design, which means that you can save money by renting or buying a smaller building.

Employees benefit from an open-plan office design because it improves their relationships with their coworkers. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to work collaboratively with their teammates if they can easily access them by turning around to talk to them. Having to navigate physical barriers like cubicle walls makes people much less likely to work together.

The open nature of an open plan office also influences the way that people deal with one another. It’s difficult to have secrets in an open environment, which encourages people to work in a much more open and honest way.

Understand the needs of your teams

It is important to take the time to understand the needs of your team when you are designing your open office layout.

Think about the needs of individual needs, and actively canvas for their opinions about your new office design. Teams who are working collaboratively on projects may relish the opportunity to have more easy access to their coworkers and may find their new environment encourages them to exchange ideas with one another freely.

However, teams who are on the phone with customers could probably use a slightly more quiet environment, and the background noise of an excitable creative team could prevent them from doing their jobs effectively.

Try to situate the teams who need to work in a quieter environment away from teams who are likely to create more noise, and if appropriate, you could include some enclosed quiet spaces within your open plan design.

It’s also a good idea to consider teams who work with sensitive information. They will need to be able to work in an environment where their screen can’t be seen by other people. You could get around this by positioning these teams with their backs to the wall or by creating enclosed areas for them.

Use an online tool to try ideas

People may find it difficult to comment on your new office design without having something to look at, so it’s a good idea to test out your office design using a design tool.

There are plenty of free design layout tools available online. Some of the most highly rated ones are:

  • SketchUp
  • HomeStyler
  • Planner 5D
  • Planning Wiz Room Planner 3D
  • IKEA planner lite
  • Bottom line

Think about where you will put WiFi

When planning your office design, think carefully about access point placement. WiFi signals can become blocked if there are too many obstacles in the way of the signal, so think about placing WiFi routers up high and ensuring they aren’t blocked by furniture.

It’s also important not to have competing WiFi routers. If you have two routers on the same frequency too close to one another, they will compete with one another and actually end up slowing each other down.

If you are planning to use multiple routers, it is important to either space them out or ensures that they are operating on different frequencies.

Consider any immovable features

There are some things that it will cost you a lot of money to move. Things like plumbing and electrical points will need to be moved by a professional, which comes with a cost attached.

It’s generally more cost-effective to leave things like bathrooms and kitchens where they are and create a design that considers their current placement.