Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Making the Transition to an Open Office Layout

Note: Articles published before January 1, 2017 may be out of date. We are in the process of updating this content.


Tommy Fuge

West, Lane & Schlager Realty Advisors, LLC

Open office plans are rapidly becoming a popular choice in many offices. According to a report published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, approximately 70 percent of workers in the United States now work in an open office layout. This type of modern layout eschews closed-door offices and conventional cubicles for a more transparent office environment with a goal of providing a collaborative work environment and more flexibility to workers. If your organization is considering making the transition to an open office layout, it is important to note the advantages as well as the disadvantages and what you can do to ensure a smooth transition.


An open office environment can provide the basis for improved communication and collaboration. In a more interactive environment, workers may be more inclined to brainstorm and work together as a cohesive unit. This type of office layout also tends to promote good personal and professional relationships between colleagues, while improving office morale. With rents rising in many areas, the ability to save space and money are a top priority among many companies. Open offices are also a great green choice. With energy consumption a major consideration today, fewer private offices help to reduce cooling loads.


While an open office plan can potentially boost creativity, too much openness can also create problems in terms of productivity and morale. For instance, some employees require privacy in order to focus properly. Due to a lack of walls, an open office environment typically allows conversation to carry more easily, which could serve as a distraction.

It should also be noted that an open office environment does lack one key ingredient: confidentiality. If you have customers or clients who need to discuss business matters in private, this could prove to be difficult in an open layout. Additionally, this type of layout may also make it difficult for managers to conduct private meetings with staff members.

Making the Transition to an Open Office

An open office layout can certainly provide many advantages, but there can also be certain drawbacks. In order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, consider the following tips:

  • Understand why you want to make the transition to an open office plan and why it is best for your organization.
  • Incorporate a variety of different types of work spaces. According to Christopher Coleman, director of global design for Google, workers require a lot of diversity. With so many different ways to work and so many different kinds of workers, including extroverts and introverts, Google focused specifically on creating different spaces so workers could be as productive as possible. This included the creation of formal and informal conference rooms as well as open spaces.
  • Make informed decisions regarding specific areas of the open layout you wish to incorporate. Remember, there are many options available ranging from a simply open layout to non-assigned seating to lounge areas, standing desk arrangements to quick plug-and-play for the mobile office worker.
  • Talk to workers before making the change. Take the time to discuss why the change is necessary and how the new open office layout will benefit everyone. Ask employees for their input and be willing to accept it.
  • Provide some locked space for employees where personal belongings can be kept secure.

By adhering to a thoughtful change management plan, an open office design can set the stage for increased creativity and productivity, as well as be a cost-saving measure.