What Is the Difference Between an Open Office and a Traditional Office Layout

Open office layouts and traditional office layouts differ in one significant way: the use of space. In an open office layout, the primary workspace design utilizes an open floor plan – most commonly with the inclusion of semi-open cubicles or shared desk clusters. In the traditional office layout, the workspaces are primarily sectioned off, consisting of mostly enclosed offices and one or two common rooms. 

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Which Layout Is Better?

While open offices and traditional layouts share the common goal of employee productivity and wellbeing, they achieve them in very different ways. Consequently, neither method is ideal and work-flow patterns need to be considered for each company and function individually. 

The open office approach can be great for supporting collaboration and team building. But it often receives criticism for the lack of privacy, regular distractions, and noise. 

The traditional office layout, on the other hand, can provide the needed privacy for productive workflows. But it can be a negative by  creating feelings of isolation and negative impacts on company culture. 

Why do companies continue to build open offices despite the criticism? 

Example of an open office design
An example of an open office design.

Fast Company recently published an article by Katharine Schwab, the company’s in-house technology expert. In the article, Schwab addresses what she believes is largely a myth of the open office – that it’s the perfect environment for sparking ideas and enlivening company culture.

Schwab then quotes a graphic designer who formerly worked in an open office, claiming the open office creates a sensory overload that seriously impairs basic employee functioning. She continues, “Researchers have shown that people in open offices take nearly two-thirds more sick leave and report greater unhappiness, more stress, and less productivity than those with more privacy.”

Schwab theorizes, and it seems other experts agree, that much of the reason we continue to have open office layouts despite unhappy employees is due to the tech boom of the 2000s. Silicon Valley companies like Google switched to the open office layout as a means of exhibiting a “new way” for employees to interact and produce ideas. Since then, it’s become a popular choice for owners and managers seeking a fresh start for their office space. There’s also the price point to consider, as some open offices have been quoted at much lower rates than the traditional office. 

Is there still a place for the traditional office layout?

An example of a traditional office
An example of a traditional office layout.

The traditional office layout hasn’t disappeared from layout design practices. If anything, the traditional and open office designs have evolved with the times. Since 2020, business and building owners have worked with designers across the globe to perfect the office layout for individual company needs. Offices are now built to encourage employee attendance in otherwise remote-hybrid situations, and space is going unwasted in the process.

Why Does Office Layout Matter? 

As we’ve noted, the layout can seriously affect employee morale and productivity. In general, the layout of your office can determine several influential factors in the day-to-day lives of employees and guests. These factors include:

  • Lighting
  • Acoustics
  • Exposure to nature
  • Visual appeal 
  • Ergonomics 

See our elements of office space design for a thorough understanding of our approach to office layouts. 

Office Designs for Employee Wellness

At PureAlchemy Design, we approach every office design with the philosophy that the right build can result in better working environments and happier employees. We understand that every office environment will come with its own unique circumstances. Whatever the need, we’ll work with you to create spaces that encourage productivity while still supporting the wellness of your employees.

Call us today or use the online form to request a consultation.

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