It’s time to start thinking about how the job will change when companies bring their employees back to the office. Because one thing could change due to persistent measures of social distancing: open space, or open offices, could become persona non grata.
The restrictions imposed by social distancing could sign the end of these open spaces, designed for collaboration, space saving and the somewhat wacky idea that you never need to focus or have a private life . Because yes, these open offices have grown because businesses can save on cost per square meter. And in fact the absence of privacy protection is less costly for businesses. But today employees are afraid of it.
Businesses have spent years rearranging office space around open floor plans. And the consequences started to be measured last year. A study published in the Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society found that face-to-face conversations dropped by 70% in open floor plans. Numerous publications such as the Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur and PBS also report a negative reaction to open space and open offices.
Open space will not disappear completely but will be redesigned for these new post Coronavirus standards
This reaction will intensify with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the return of people to offices that are often far too open. Here are some reasons why time is running out for open space:
- Your company may already be in a dynamic that goes beyond corporate offices, whether open space or not. The experience of working from home took on a considerable scale during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guess what is better than the cost per square meter of an open space? Don’t have an office at all! Thank you for teleworking. CFOs are already thinking about the percentage of employees who could work from home more permanently.
- Open floor plans may not seem safe in this new post Coronavirus normality. These “bullpen” type offices (with boundaries around the office in an open space) limit the possibilities of exchanges. You may miss your colleagues, but you won’t want to be too close to them in a post-COVID-19 world.
- Collaboration depends more on technology than proximity. Yes, some teams work in open space, but many do just as well. Productivity yields in open space are, at best, erratic. Video conferencing systems are much more cost effective.
- The open offices have occupied too much human resources. I can’t quantify it, but there are many anecdotes that open space layout plans have resulted in conflict, unwanted behavior and inconvenience.
In the end, open space will not disappear completely but will be redesigned for these new standards post Coronavirus. These offices which for health reasons could accommodate half of the employees they previously hosted.