Open plan office can present several issues that have an impact on staff productivity. We have briefly mentioned them in our last article, which explored the benefits of an acoustic pod. However, there are situations where office partitions may well be the best solution for your business.

In this article, we will further explore the issues with this type of office layout, and hopefully provide a helpful guide as to how you can identify potential improvements, whether planning an office fit out for the first time or considering some change to the current layout.

Why did the Open Plan Office become so popular?

Before suggesting a list of potential solutions to some negative issues of Open Plan Office layouts, it is important, in the first instance, to understand the main reason why they were created.

Business leaders understood that good communication within an organisation is essential for great productivity, therefore they are constantly trying to find ways to improve it, but  it was the massive growth of tech companies, requiring the recruitment of huge numbers of staff over a short time period, that set in motion the necessity to change from the old type of office layouts. Later, nearly all businesses began to follow the trend.

For many years, business leaders have held the belief that a lack of walls improved how people collaborated and communicated, while eliminating the claustrophobic atmosphere of the cubicles the,  but published research by Harvard University has to some extent de-bunked this belief. 

b2b office screens and partitions
The Harvard Business Review found that

“face-to-face interactions dropped by roughly 70% after the firms transitioned to open offices, while electronic interactions increased to compensate.”

The data analysis and its correlation to the use of technology are pretty complex and can be daunting to get our heads around it, so we will simplify it and focus on what matters, how it is interfering with your business and how to solve these problems.


What are the negative issues with Open Plan Office?

open plan office
open plan office
  • Noise: It is harder to concentrate in a noisy environment. Therefore, people will take longer to carry out some tasks, mainly those requiring focused attention.
  • Privacy: Maintaining clients’ data secure is of the utmost importance. Often, team members deal with different portfolios, so they should not have access to or be able to see each other’s screens.
  • Social Factor: We all have a limit on how much time we can spend socialising with work colleagues before we need time alone. Being in a group for the usual 8-hour day can impact how we interact with each other, both inside and outside the work environment.
  • Competitivity: A certain level of competitiveness can provide a healthy incentive to drive goal achievements. But when placed under the constant pressure of comparison within the team, colleagues can display stress and lack of motivation.
  • Organisation: While some may find working around a messy desk easier, it is disturbing to others who may more productive in a clean and uncluttered ambient workplace.
  • Hygiene and virus spread: As proven by the Covid 19 pandemic having people working in close contact facilitates the rapid transmission of this and many other viruses, leading to increased staff absenteeism.

The Solution: Office Screens, Dividers and Partitions

The study mentioned above also found that often workers find their own solutions. For example, they might wear headphones, avoid eye contact, go to the toilets more often, place magazine filer or lever arch files on the edges of the desks and many other tricks to help focus on their tasks, but these are far from the ideal solutions.

Offering a positive and suitable environment for the staff will not only improve their quality of life and work but also directly impact productivity. Yet, fitting out an entirely new office can be impractical for most businesses due to cost, time and space.

Acoustic pods are useful for periodic meetings and small teams operating in a quiet area that only occasionally need isolation. While on a larger scale, benefiting all staff simultaneously, the best solutions are office screens, dividers and office partitions.

Office Screens and Dividers

b2b office screens

The office screens and dividers vary in shape and size, some can be used to split bench workstations into smaller areas while maintaining visibility. The free-standing screens can replace the use of a wall, the units mounted on wheels offer the advantage of being easily moved around the office, creating an enclosed space wherever needed.

During the pandemic, we saw the transparent protective screens widely used across all business sectors to prevent the virus’s spread. These are a great solution when face-to-face contact is essential.

Office partitions

b2b office interiors

We can use office partitions to create small private spaces and avoid the need to get involved in messy time-consuming build projects. The glass partitions are increasingly popular because they allow natural light in and preserve the feeling of an open floor design. It works even better when combined with privacy blinds.

The benefits of partitions are many, including privacy, noise reduction and tidiness. In addition, when well positioned and matching the decor, they will enhance the ambience of the overall office area.

There is a wide range of available options, both standard and customised and the B2B Office Interiors team offers a free consultation service that takes the hassle out of finding the best solution for your office space.