Open-concept offices are… tricky.
Startup culture has become a phenomenon to be emulated. With the rise of millennials and Gen Z entering the workplace, companies have felt the pressure to add ping pong tables and remove rigid schedules to make everyone happy.
I identify as a millennial (come at me). Do I love ping pong and flexible schedules? Bet.* But you know what else I like? Doing good, creative work and getting it done on time with minimal distractions. There has been one thing since my time in creative office environments that have both helped and hindered my deep think work…
An open-concept office.
The collaboration that comes with an open-concept office is truly magical – but do the pros outweigh the cons? I polled my coworkers to find out.
Fun fact: Koi-Fly Creative is moving its HQ! I don’t want to give away too many details yet but the answers to this survey actually helped us in the design process of our new space. Check out the progress below!
1. Genuine conversations and daily laughter are a common occurrence
Most people are used to sharing an office with a team to some level or another but I have never experienced such a beautiful setup like this one. Our current open-concept office has a much more laid back and free-flowing creative vibe than I’ve ever experienced.
2. The camaraderie and friendships built are powerful
In the creative process, trust and camaraderie are important for developing out of the box ideas. We know each other in the office so well that no one is afraid of judgment during a brainstorm session – even if someone throws out an undeveloped concept idea. There are no dumb ideas – only incredible opportunities to collaborate with people you trust.
3. Free therapy, anyone?
One anonymous surveyor said it best, “I like it being a spot for me to get free therapy without having to pay a hefty fee.” #truth See Pros #2 for explanation.
4. Status meetings aren’t as necessary
Yes, of course, we have weekly status meetings. But because we can deliver quick updates throughout the week, meetings and emails are minimal. No need for a scheduled hour-long meeting when you can update everyone involved as events happen. Plus, it’s much more timely!
5. It’s easy to get the answer you need, FAST
If anyone ever has a question about a job or project, all they have to do is roll back in their chair and ask the person across the room. *See Cons #1 for the downfall.
6. It’s brighter and less claustrophobic
Have you ever gone into an office filled with small rooms and cubicles? It can feel cramped and dark. An open concept with no offices means everyone gets ample natural light and a ton of room to work.
1. It’s distracting
There are constantly people talking across the room to each other. It’s amazing on a Monday morning when everyone’s catching up – but when you have a deadline on a Wednesday afternoon and two people are chatting about a project you aren’t involved in, it can get noisy and distracting.
2. There’s no privacy
Let’s say your doctor calls to follow up on your appointment and sensitive information is being discussed. To get any privacy at all, you’d need to leave the office and even sometimes go outside if someone else is on a private call.
3. Your mess becomes everyone’s mess
Your desk is always on display. In our office specifically, we share big rustic reclaimed wood tables where 1-4 people sit at any time. It’s easy for someone’s mess to creep on to a coworker’s space. The “messy” coworker feels embarrassed because they are bothering their tablemate and the “clean” coworker can end up feeling cramped. Having individual spaces to put away your things (or be messy if the day gets away from you) is important.
4. There ultimately becomes a lack of independence
Everyone ALWAYS knows what EVERYONE is up to in an open-concept office. This makes it challenging to make a decision and run with it. Sometimes because it’s easy to feel pressured to get multiple opinions (because they’re right there) and sometimes it’s because coworkers, at no fault of their own, want to be involved and collaborate.
It’s awesome to collaborate but sometimes too much collaboration turns into a lack of autonomy.
5. Sometimes you just need a break
People handle stress in different ways. Some like to vent their emotions and some simply need a private, quiet space to take a few deep breaths. In our new office, we’ve taken both into consideration by having closed off working pods as well as a relaxed living area and creative spaces to encourage everyone’s individual tactics to boost mental wellness.
6. “It’s hard to fart in my chair without everyone hearing.” – Anonymous Surveyor
I’m just going to leave this one right here. #honesty #nojudgement
Now Presenting… the Ultimate Working Environment
We asked our coworkers what their ideal working environment is so we can apply it to our new office. The consensus was a beautiful not too hot, not too cold… but just right.
In our new office, we’re developing cozy pods with half walls for privacy but quick access if needed. These spaces, even though technically open to noise from the rest of the coworkers, will allow (with the help of good headphones) for more deep thinking and concentration. These will be custom, individual spaces – decorated any way the Koi-Flyer would like to increase a sense of ownership. These pods will also have abundant wall space to hang calendars, notes, or maybe a good ole’ Elon University pennant. *Go Phoenix!*
In addition to the pods, we’ll also have a collaborative space in the middle filled with the big reclaimed wood desks from our old office. One of our favorite parts of this space is the natural light and gigantic windows. Natural light has been known to increase energy and wellness. We’ll get a ton of both with these bad boys!
To beat the noise, we’re building a small, two-person sound proof booth to take calls or conduct sensitive meetings. Whether you need to take a private phone call or a conference call with a client, you won’t distract the rest of the office and the office won’t have to keep their voices down to avoid distracting you.
When anyone just needs to take a breather, we’re also providing a living room/kitchen area for casual conversations and brainstorming.
Finally, we’re building a big, collaborative meeting area with massive whiteboards and a flat-screen monitor to present projects to clients. This way, we won’t have to take over someone’s desk when guests come to visit.
Do you or have you ever worked in an open-concept office? What did you like most about it? Were there any challenges? Comment below with any suggestions for our new office!
* I learned the word “bet” from my Gen Z coworker… for those old folks like me who didn’t know what “bet” meant, click here).