There has been much written about the benefits of the “new” open office concept. On the other hand it’s not difficult to find articles which state the open office concept has been proven to not be effective.
The truth is it depends upon the dynamics of a company and personal preferences of the individual. It is important to tell you that I have my own bias on this issue. I will nonetheless do my best to present the pros and cons objectively.
Synergy of a team
A commercial real estate brokerage is a great example where open ongoing dialogue among staff is beneficial.
New team members especially, can learn a great deal through exposure to marketing strategies and telephone conversations of the senior staff. There are occasions where a colleague may be able to add valuable input to an assignment I’m working on.
Most organizations, at some level, will require small meeting enclaves where confidential conversations can take place.
Recruiting, retaining and personal space
The open concept office is not new. I sold real estate in the early 80’s in a room of 20 other salespeople with half wall dividers.
From what I can remember at that time, a half wall divider was a luxury that most companies didn’t offer. There were no cell phones or computers therefore no home offices.
With a goal to recruit and retain top people and be an industry leader, we moved to upscale semi-private offices with doors in the mid 80’s.
If you were to survey my team you would find quite a variance of personal preference. Some like the team dialogue that more readily comes out of an open concept model.
Typically that Broker can function well on the phone in spite of the fact that several conversations may be going on at the same time in the background. Others are simply unable to focus on the task at hand when there are immediate (what they would refer to as) distractions within close proximity of their desk.
Most people are of either one mindset or another and once they have decided upon their preference rarely shift that opinion.
A successful compromise
In an earlier post I provided a hint of ICR’s solution to this question: What does a YXE “No Door” C.R.E. policy mean to you? We have experimented with both concepts and have settled upon frame-less floor to ceiling glass walls with no doors.
Our newest design also provides an open concept with half wall dividers for newer brokers and breakout enclaves when that private conversation is necessary. Having personally experienced most of the possible office layouts I believe this hybrid solution is a perfect option for commercial real estate brokerage.