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February 16, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Listen to the Buzz: Employees Prefer an Open Office

open office 3Last week’s post on open offices generated a lot of strong opinions in the comments on LinkedIn. I’m humbled by all of the “likes” and excited about the quality discussion on both sides of the debate. From people discussing building acoustics to offering their own advice on open-office courtesy and etiquette, everyone shared their two cents and no one held back! Thanks!

Some people felt our tips for staying productive were simply mechanisms to take people out of the open-office structure, which was a really interesting argument. For example, we recommended people wear headphones, which means they are temporarily unavailable to the conversation and collaboration the open-office environment is supposed to stimulate. That’s a fair observation, but I’d argue wearing headphones is a concentration tactic that people in cubicles and even closed offices employ; thus not relegated only to open offices.

Another interesting point brought up was that while many businesses use an open-office design for the majority of employees, executives do not participate and instead receive closed-office privileges. That certainly could be true, but it could also be an issue of privacy at those businesses where executives are regularly conducting confidential calls or in-person client meetings. Nonetheless, I’m proud that this is not the case at LinkUp. My work space is in the open office along with the majority of our executives, and I personally really enjoy it!

Seeing how passionate readers are about this topic, we decided to poll LinkUp employees to see how they really feel about working in an open office. Was all the positivity simply for show? Do they all secretly despise it? We conducted a brief anonymous survey to uncover the truth, and the results are fascinating:

1. The majority of people do enjoy the open-office setting: Only 17 percent of employees at LinkUp dislike our open office, 22 percent are indifferent and 61 percent stated they like or love it.

2. Our office is split between introverts and extroverts: 33 percent of employees consider themselves introverts, 39 percent label themselves extraverts and 28 percent say it depends on the day.

3. What people like best is the buzz and energy, ease of collaboration and the sense of community.

4. Our employees’ biggest challenges are distractions and issues concentrating. Lack of privacy is also a concern.

5. Tips from our employees for people in open offices include: invest in nice headphones, be respectful to those around you with your conversations and noise, and have reasonable expectations (you will be interrupted, people will see your screen, etc.).

Whether a company should employ an open-office design will depend on a number of variables. Some businesses are more fitting than others just by the nature of the work conducted. For example, when client privacy is required or confidential meetings are frequent, an open office may not be the best choice. Culture and personality are big considerations as well, as some people are more or less likely to be successful in an open-office environment. Before implementation, leaders must consider if their employees would be able to operate and meet expectations in that type of setting.