Open offices were introduced in the 1960s to increase unquantifiable things like collaboration and creativity. After becoming more popular through the 1980s, 70% off office workspaces in the US today are open plans. While they were intended to be more flexible and contain a mix of both private and public spaces, they’re known as an inexpensive way to fit the most amount of people into an office space with the least amount of discomfort. Now that COVID-19 has arrived in the US, though, the case against open offices is getting stronger.
The Case Against Open Offices
Inc. describes new “social distancing” protocols for open office plans as “ludicrous,” and says social distancing is useless in an office when you sit in the same place for hours on end. A single sneeze can send a spread of droplets throughout an entire area, settling on hard-to-clean surfaces like keyboards. One study showed viral exposure in an open plan office reached all tested surfaces by the end of the workday – from coffee pots to door handles, breakroom surfaces and more.
What’s more, they say the open office plan is fatally flawed, and not just because of the public health risk they pose. While colds and other viruses are more easily spread in open offices, they also don’t do what they were intended. On the contrary, studies have found open offices don’t save money and decrease productivity.
Is There a Role for Open Offices?
It may seem like open office plans will be on a steady decline as more employees work remotely. Some experts still see a role for offices – even open ones – once COVID-19 has passed, though. Long-term, we’ll see a more even shift between work life and home life to create a more balanced opportunity for employees across the country. For now, though, offices are in a wait-and-see mode. What can you do now to keep your employees the safest?
- Design your current space to include taller cubicle walls
- Reduce the density in your office with maximum occupancy protocols for breakrooms and more
- Mark certain desks as off-limits, or entirely remove them from a space
- Avoid bringing outside clients deep into the office for meetings – route them to low-trafficked side rooms
- Large team meetings can be broken into virtual and physical components
- Spread out your employees through office reconfiguration
- Consider implementing new schedules for employees so no more than 50-60% are in-office at a time.
Whether you need assistance designing and implementing a brand-new office configuration or want to see a layout for socially-distanced employees, Office Space Solutions is here to help. We offer data and cabling services that allow your employees to attend virtual meetings from numerous office locations, as well as house your extra equipment and unneeded furniture in a climate-controlled warehouse for safekeeping until all COVID-19 public safety precautions have cleared.