I hate cubicles — and I am not alone. Across the country, one of the trends sweeping office space design is an open, collaborative work space.
The millennial work force is demanding an office that is open, airy, social and connected, with wireless capabilities and desirable amenities. Gone are the days of dark, confined spaces that don’t encourage social connections or work collaboration.
It has been estimated that as many as 70 percent of American workers now work in open-concept offices, according to the International Facility Management Association.
Why the shift?
Our brokerage, Amherst Madison Legacy, has embraced this trend in our office design.
Several years ago, we had the opportunity to move into a new space with an extensive IT budget. Our goal was to leverage this opportunity into an office space that represented consumer demand. We were one of the first real estate companies in Idaho to use a true “open concept” or “flexible office space.”
Our primary drive for creating this shared space stemmed from observations on how most Realtors (and many employees in general) prefer to work.
We observed that many Realtors preferred to work in open, energetic spaces with amenities likes snacks and beverages. In fact, many people work from coffee shops that bring these elements together into one space.
Our concept was to bring the coffee shop to the office. We sought to create a fun environment that was open, so that agents would want to come in the office for learning, energy, collaboration and a refuel.
In addition to the morale of our agents, the shared office space has been a fantastic way for us to remain flexible as we grow. We have a large open space that can be used as a lounge, flex-work area or meeting room. It has offered us space-use options that we would’ve never had otherwise.
That adaptability is one of the primary advantages I see with shared office space. It can be used for many different occasions, and still can be made to look very professional. We have used our space for anything from parties with as many as 150 people to small focus groups and breakout sessions with three to five agents.
The trend towards open-concept office design is not without drawbacks. One downside is getting acceptance from those with traditional mindsets towards office space. It can be a bit of a shift for some to work right next to others without a cubicle or wall separating things.
Phone calls can be a difficult if you have loud talkers or many people on the phone at once, and introvert employees or contractors may struggle more than extroverts. Also, open office spaces do not scale up in size as easily as traditional office designs.
Our experience shows an open space’s benefits outweighs these drawbacks. Additionally, a healthy mix of private office space and plentiful conference/breakout room brings a good balance to a pure open-space design.
Like it or hate it, the open-space concept is here to stay.