Open Plan Office & Private Office | Meaning | Advantages and Disadvantages

What is Open Plan Office?

Open Plan Office
Open Plan Office – Meaning, Merits and Demerits

Open Plan Office is one where where all the departments, men and office equipment are housed under a single roof without any partition wall between them. Each department or section is allotted a separate space within the same roof.

Sometimes counter-high filing cabinets and shelves are used to demarcate the area of each section or department. However, it should be noted that private offices are provided for top executives, whose work requires privacy and concentration.

The modern tendency in Western countries is to adopt open office instead of accommodating different sections in separate departments. This tendency has grown there because rents are charged per square foot. The open office reduces this burden considerably.

Open Plan Office - Sample Layout
Open Plan Office – Sample Layout

Advantages of Open Plan Offices

Open office has several points to its credit. The most important ones are given below:

1. Savings in Space and Money

Denyer J. Shaw says that approximately one quarter i.e. 25% of the space can be saved by open office. This factor is a very serious consideration especially in bigger cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata etc. where rent is abnormally high.

2. Effective Supervision

Supervision will become easier, because the actions of every body are visible to all. Therefore, the staff shall not indulge in unwanted chats and conversations etc.

3. Flexibility

Expansion of work with consequent increase of staff can be cope with as the larger working area allows more flexibility in the rearrangement of working space. This is a great virtue in the open office.

4. Better Communication

Communication between staff becomes easier and quicker, because there are not doors or partition between them and so it is possible for every staff member to see others by looking around.

5. Impromptu Discussions

Impromptu conferences can be held very easily without any distraction and waste of time. Whenever difficulty arises such impromptu conferences can take place and matters can be settled immediately.

6. Avoidance of Delays

Delays in the flow of work caused by routing papers and people from room to room are eliminated in an open plan office.

7. Centralization

In an open office, stationery store and filing can be easily centralized for greater ease, efficiency and economy. Further, better and fuller use of machines and equipment is ensured.

8. Morale and Motivation

The morale of staff is improved by the clean, bright and spacious appearance of the office. R.Brealey further says,

Artificial barriers between people working at different levels in the organization are broken down, and a-more sociable atmosphere is created when people are working together .

This factor will motivate the employees for better performance.

9. Smarter Look

The office wears a smarter look and to that extent it provides an advertisement to the organization without any extra cost. The workers also feel proud of the organization. It is also easy to decorate an open office. In fact, the staff members themselves provide part of the decoration by making it a pleasant place to work on.

Prof.R.Brealey says that the noise from typewriters and other office machines has less impact in a large space and can be further avoided by incorporating sound absorbing qualities in the structure and furniture. All these factors make the office to wear a smart out look and add prestige to the firm.

Limitations of Open Office

Open office is not free from defects. It suffers from many problems. These problems are interrelated and any attempt to solve one problem may give rise to another problem. J.C.Denyer and J.Shaw enlist the following as the disadvantages of an open office.

1. Office Atmosphere

The office shall look like a factory and shall create an impersonal atmosphere.

2. Difficult to reduce noise

Reduction of noise particularly telephone calls is almost impossible. Some special steps must be taken to eliminate this defect.

3. Need more concentration

The distraction of people moving around can be very frustrating for people whose work needs intense concentration.

4. Cramped space

If adequate provision is not made for expansion of staff and equipment, the area shall easily become cramped i.e. prevent the movement of the staff.

5. Need large lighting system

Since the size of the office is unduly large lighting shall become a problem. R.Brealey remarked that large rooms would require large windows, otherwise people working in the centre of the office need artificial light throughout the office hours. Artificial lighting has its own drawbacks.

Particularly in a country like India, power cut has become almost a permanent problem. To avoid this, large windows should be provided. Large windows, in turn shall cause fatigue because of glare on sunny days and over heating caused by high temperature of the large sheets of glass.

6. Improper air conditioning

Certain type of air conditioning can create droughts. If the air conditioning is not fully efficient the atmosphere shall become “Stuffy” i.e. badly ventilated.

7. Bad Ventilation

Infectious diseases like Madras eye can be easily passed on from one person to another due to bad ventilation and over crowding of employees, at one place.

Above all, the office will appear more or less like a factory with all its evil effects and depressing atmosphere. The employees feel little attachment to their place of work and this may create problems to the management. Moreover, it will also create a bad impression in the minds of the visitors to the office.

What are Small Individual Office or Private Office?

Private Office - Meaning, advantages, disadvantages
Private Office – Meaning, advantages, disadvantages

Private offices are small rooms or cabins or cubicles, which are, separated from similar other rooms or the open office by full or half partitions. Private office originally referred to a small room in which a particular department of an office is accommodated.

As such, for each section there will be one small office room within the office area. But today it refers to a small cabin in a large open office. They are primarily made available for top managerial personnel, or for works of a confidential nature, or work that must be isolated in order to eliminate noise.

Importance of Private Office

The extent to which private offices are to be provided to the employees depends largely upon the desire of the top management. George R. Terry says that in all organizations whether big or small, private offices are, however, inevitable due to the following three reasons:

1. To Add Prestige

Most top management members are generally provided with private offices. This helps to add weight, influence and respect to this group in the eyes of the other employees and visitors to the office. In addition to the top managerial personnel, there are other ‘members for whom for reasons of prestige and merit, separate private offices are provided. They include departmental heads and professional people.

2. Work requiring Concentration

Certain type of work, by their nature requires concentration and adequate space for effectively performing the work. Creative work such as writing an advertising copy and preparing difficult report usually justifies a private office.

3. Confidential Work

Work involving research, planning control etc. are confidential in nature. Likewise the conversations between top managerial decisions etc. should be held secretly and it is best to conduct them in a private office.

Advantages of Private Offices

Private offices have the following merits:

1. Confidential work can be performed in privacy.

2. They promote personal atmosphere and create a sense of importance and prestige to the individual worker.

3. The efficiency of the worker is increased sufficiently because they can concentrate in their work without any outside distractions.

4. Private offices are tidier or congenial and less regimented.

5. A factory like look is eliminated. As such the private offices are more healthy places to work as only a few people sit in one room and thus transmission of infectious diseases is considerably avoided.

Disadvantages of Private Offices

Private offices have several permanent drawbacks. According to C.L. Littlefield, the principal disadvantages of private offices are the following:

1. Supervisors do not have the close contact with employees, which is possible in an open office.

2. More-floor space is consumed.

3. Smooth and uninterrupted work flow is harder to achieve.

4. Problems of air conditioning and lighting are complicated.

5. Private offices are inflexible. The space they use cannot be readily converted to other uses.

6. Private offices are more expensive to construct and maintain.