Open Offices: Distracting or Dynamic?


If you’ve ever spent time in a cubicle, an open office layout might be difficult to understand. Corporate designs that integrate glass walls, couch-filled hangouts, and mobile rolling desks leave little room for privacy. The Motley Fool’s offices implement an open design, but while it contributes to our goal of complete transparency, an open office can definitely present some challenges worth considering.

Unable to understand our HQ’s glass conference rooms, a recent job candidate expressed concern over our open office layout. It’s not easy to adapt to unexpected distractions, especially under the pressure of producing top-notch results. Although it seems like a modern idea, open office plans originated in Germany during the 1950’s “to facilitate communication and idea flow.” Our office serves this purpose well, and chatting with a colleague face-to-face is much more effective than an email chain.  Much of our work is project-based, and large teams need adequate space for collaboration.

Open office layouts can be difficult for introverts, so we strive to accommodate Fools that struggle with this structure. We offer rooms reserved as “quiet spaces,” along with outdoor balconies that can act as quick escapes. A Fool can even book a conference room to get away from interruptions. Many Fools wear headphones to drown out noise and, interestingly enough, they’re not alone. Referencing employees in similar corporate spaces, one article claims “headphones have become a necessary coping mechanism.”

Plenty of studies deter this popular type of office space. Cited disadvantages include dips in concentration, higher levels of stress, and even potential health concerns. A study in Denmark found that employees using shared spaces took an average of sixty-two percent more sick days than those stationed in single offices. If a Fool falls ill, we strongly encourage them to take the time needed to recover. Not all companies are as flexible, but this is our attempt to avoid spreading illness among Fools. Sponsoring health fairs with free flu-shots and check-ups is also a worthwhile idea.

If my two cents matters, I much prefer an open office layout. After working in different professional environments, employees seem more connected and well-versed on company affairs under this type of transparency. Open communication allows for stronger relationships, enhanced teamwork, and the possibility of new innovations. From a business standpoint, this flexible space could be more cost-effective since employees share resources like printers, copiers, and general supplies.

Open offices are becoming more popular, especially among the younger workforce. Since seventy percent of all offices operate under an open layout, it’s possible that you, too, are working in an open environment. So what say you, dear reader? Do you find an open environment distracting…or dynamic?

One Response to “Open Offices: Distracting or Dynamic?”

  1. are they more popular with the workforce? Or w/ decision makers trying to pay less in rent by cramming everyone into smaller spaces? As an introvert, I don’t like the open space in our office- a few cubicle walls would do wonders for my concentration and output.

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