Monday Motivation: The 5 Spaces You Need to Make Your Open Office Work

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What’s work like now that the walls have fallen down? The open-office layout was once revolutionary, but it is now standard in many industries. One study finds that 70% of American office spaces have “no or low partitions,” according to the Washington Post.

Once any practice becomes the overarching norm, haters come out of the woodwork. The internet is teeming with attacks on open offices. The above WaPo article is a hilarious rant against the trendy decision by the writer’s advertising bosses to go open, leaving her stuck “next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life.”

The negativity goes deep. Inc. calls open offices “insanely stupid”; per Slate, they are simply “the worst.”

How bad are open offices really? And what’s the best way to deal with them, now that they’re everywhere?

Business writers seem to agree on the solution: rather than an entirely open office, workers want a variety of spaces to choose from. Fortune supports a “hybrid office, which incorporates a range of spaces and gives employees the autonomy to move between them throughout the day.”

The Huffington Post points to the example of coworking spaces. According to Harvard Business Review, they promote productivity—in part, because “members can choose when and how to interact with others.” If members want to socialize over a coffee, they can go do so, and if they want time to themselves, that’s also available.By providing a “mix of different kinds of spaces,” companies can create some of the easy flexibility that people love about coworking.

So which spaces are needed? American Express’s OPENforum has a useful list. Basically, you want your layout to accommodate “five different types of interactions”:

  • A small “refuge,” for 1-2 people
  • “Enclaves” for small meetings (3-4 people)
  • A medium-sized “team-meeting space” for up to 8
  • An “assembly” area for company-wide meetings
  • A “community” space for eating and simply “socializing”

Does your company’s layout help you get things done? Or does it get in the way? How would you redesign it? Submit a review of your company today, and check out other workers’ unfiltered opinions of their employers.