Recent research by Harvard University reports that working in an open space environment leads to less direct communication among colleagues and a parallel increase in the use of electronic communication systems. This would seem to indicate that the lack of privacy runs counter to the underlying aim of open space to facilitate involvement, communication and work- and decision-sharing. How do you interpret the results of the study? At Estel, we are convinced that correctly planned open space provides the best working environment. But there has to be a good balance between closed, open and flexible multi-purpose spaces in line with the requirements of the many activities taking place during the working day. For sure, reserved and more secluded areas are important. Rooms for more private meetings and training sessions for 15/20 people can be created
with floor-to-ceiling partitions. Similarly, there should be smaller soundproof spaces like Collaborative Rooms and phone booths allowing private conversations and quiet areas for concentration. Does an open space workplace make privacy impossible? Absolutely not. Workstations that are part of an open space office can have panels and partitions, creating a more secluded space, enhancing concentration but at the same time allowing close colleague cooperation and exchange. Environments can be flexible and adapted to the building’s architecture and so make optimum use of the available spaces. How much does the design of workstations, furniture and fittings contribute to the success of an open space? Design is key and a major focus for us. Our workstations are equipped with containers, drawers and open compartments, and our Sit&Stand desks can be raised or lowered 60 - 125 cm allowing workers to alternate between sitting and standing and so improve blood circulation and avoid neck and back pain as shown by the latest ergonomic research. No less important are the service areas, from the photocopy and printing areas to the "Coffice", a chill-out and general relaxation environment where people can take their lunch break but also have informal meetings. The Estel design ensures that every functional area is immediately recognizable, an important signposting factor for outside visitors too. Would you say, then, that if corrected designed, an open space office is still a leading office layout option? I’m sure of it. An open space plan does away with hierarchical layers and the need for restrictive rules and regulations, with the office head working alongside his or her co-workers. Thanks of course to digital communication systems, people can work, move about and share. Individual egos are kept in check, with the result that there are fewer conflicts and personal jealousies. Although you move faster by yourself, as a group you travel further.