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Why Open Plan Is Important

DATE: 02/07/2017

POSTED IN: Industry

BLADE Open Plan Workstations

Why Open Plan Is Important.

First, Let's Put a Big Worry to Rest – Office Noise

A recent visitor to our office commented about how it was very quiet with no phones ringing. I said, “Well that’s good? People really only call these days when they have a problem, or are trying to sell me an oil and gas investment!”

He laughed and said, “I guess that’s right–all our phone calls seem to be problems!”

Whilst not entirely true as we do get other phone calls, the day to day communication that a few years ago would have been handled with a phone call are now by email.

Our offices are quieter now that golf ball and dot matrix printers have largely gone, the fax machine is gone, and the company printer is generally away from the main work area.

What about privacy? This million-dollar question often raises its head, and any competent office designer will add breakout areas for group discussions and privacy areas for formal meetings.


First the meaning. It comes from the Latin ‘collaborare,’ meaning to work together–as in “he wrote on art and architecture in collaboration with John Betjeman.”

Here is the important fact that many companies, I feel, overlook: The human benefit of a people simply working together is the #1 reason for an OPEN PLAN OFFICE.

So, onto people.


People like talking to people and sharing ideas, pleasures and sorrows. We are gregarious by nature, and an emoticon can never convey the real-time actuality of seeing a face light up with happiness.

In a world where communication is increasingly by IM the ability to actually “give”, rather than “send” a smile or a word of encouragement is priceless.

Price brings us to our next heading.

Price & History

Would you install a 52-year-old computer system, today?

In 1958 Robert Proust was employed to design a new office look. 8 years later, the cubicle arrived.

It banished our ability to collaborate and share ideas for over 50 years.

The cubicle was designed by a man, for a man’s world. Refer to the chart below.

So why are they still disproportionately expensive? Here is an unchanged product, apart from cosmetic tweaks for 52 years, costing between $2,500 – $10,000 per person! The reason: PROFIT. They are highly-profitable for the manufacturers.

Cubicle manufacturers are frightened of the consumer finding out that they can purchase a well-made open plan system from under a $1,000 a head.

Next, indirect cost advantages.

Environmental Cost

I. Heat and Energy

Ask any HVAC designer how difficult it is–and how much extra tonnage an AC unit needs–to adequately provide a balanced temperature to a room full of 50+ cubicles, plus the extra ongoing energy required. Compare that to the free and natural flow of air in an open plan environment.

II. Light

No longer do the lucky ones near the window have the sole benefit of sunshine, but now ambient light is universally available with an open plan office.

III. Real Estate

A well-designed open plan collaborative workspace can easily save at least 20+% real estate. That is a tangible bottom-line value that every CEO needs to take seriously.

IV. Flexibility

A few years ago, a large UK manufacturer of confectionary converted from a national mainstream manufacturer of cubicles to open plan system from ourselves.

I always remember this conversation with a Senior Director from that company. I asked, “Why have you changed from such a blue-chip brand to a, albeit good-quality but relatively-small, value-driven supplier?”

He replied, “There were 3 things: The personal service of your company, the obvious cost savings, and, most of all, the flexibility that a lower-cost, easy to reconfigure system gives me financially. I don’t want to have an overpriced asset on my balance sheet that restricts our ability to react to the changing staff and technological needs of the future”.

In Conclusion

Coming back to the key point of why I believe in an open plan office space: PEOPLE.

  • The ability to attract and retain the very best of the millennial generation.
  • Create an environment of collaborative creativity.
  • Grow a positive team culture.

And if you are worried about not being able to goof off on the internet, then I rest my case for the open plan office.

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