Open plan has been around since I was born. Then it disappeared for a while.

And every now and then we have the opportunity to rediscover it. As much as I like to move house, I love to revamp the working space we share.

According to a recent survey by the International Facility Management Association, the current breakdown of office types is around 60% open plan and 32% private and 8% bullpen. Of course, most businesses are a mix. Finding the right mix means that a facility and its layout must reflect corporate culture, structure, goals and branding – all the things that make an organisation unique.

It’s a question that is becoming more relevant. Branding, technology, higher quality dialogue, transparency of the offering, permission marketing…to quickly react to changes in the marketplace, create new opportunities, decrease time to market, and keep the workers happy.

The further along the spectrum toward “openness” a business becomes, the more interaction and communication takes place. The increase in communication happens on several levels. On a purely practical level, “speed of communication promotes speed when someone takes a phone call of execution,” says Dick Costolo, founder of FeedBurner.

In a very open office, when someone takes a call from a client whose roof has collapsed, for example, others can overhear it. That can translate into more people being able to act quickly on the information. The expert dialogue and “our” vocabulary become shared across departments and everyone becomes better at negotiating, whether they are dealing with Telstra or a property developer.

By moving more quickly towards transparency within the business and towards our customers, the likelihood of empathy, motivation and understanding is vastly increased. We make better relationships in the business, amongst ourselves, and it easily follows that we add value to our customer relationships. They can see that we cooperate and collaborate. And laugh more.


See: The Private-to-Open Spectrum. Herman Miller Research.

Image: Herman Miller