Why Open Plan designs are losing favour….

We are steadily approaching a full year in our coworking office based in central Altrincham. Operating from a startup space we’ve not had the luxury to split the office into zones, consequently I’ve noticed from the movements of my members that privacy is valued. Currently we have an open plan office where we’ve benefitted from amazing interactions and partnerships over a coffee. It’s a perfect venue for remote workers to tap into a social setting and chat informally during the working day. Many of us from corporate backgrounds really miss the random meetings and chats about Netflix or family that are commonly shared in company offices.

Our policy has been that we all freely talk on the phone around the desks. However, this can get noisy when three or more of us are chatting. As a consequence we roam to more private parts of the floor when we need to open up or have a confidential chat with a client. In my role as a space planner this has helped me to design a larger space that caters for all our needs and whilst researching this I noticed that our habits are reflected elsewhere.

The concept of ‘office landscaping’ is widely credited unsurprisingly to a Hamburg based German company who experimented at dividing an office with plants and screens instead of walls. The removal of private offices and a hierarchical approach reflected the socialist politics of the post war 1950’s and promoted the launch of collaborative spaces. The initially European style is now so prevalent that it’s unimaginable for many of us to think of the walled environments that preceded this movement.

A survey by The British Council of Offices in 2016 discovered that almost half of respondents were unhappy with noise transfer in open plan spaces. This has led to a greater recognition of private areas by office planners and businesses. A quasi open plan style is now favoured offering quieter areas for deep work, private meeting cubicles and an area where workers can hot desk. The style ticks boxes for flexibility and agile working allowing spontaneity, communication and also confidentiality. Jeremy Myerson an academic and respected commentator has called this style ‘activity – based working, acknowledging the varied use of today’s modern offices.

Google’s pioneering London offices now offer sleep pods and pop up meeting spaces. Furniture designers have in addition fashioned sound proofed pods and chairs to insulate noise from phone calls within a confined area. Following some great feedback from our members we will recognise the need for ‘activity -based ‘ areas in our new 3,000 square feet office. Meeting rooms, eating areas and break out spaces will all be adaptable so we can mix up the use. Follow us for updates and photos as we fit out the new altspace for Altrincham, Cheshire.