The proposal of open office plans was conceived with ideas of grandeur. Companies were told employees will collaborate, ideas will flow and staff will be more productive.

In reality, open-plan offices revealed a different story. They are loud, distracting, offer little privacy and give employees sensory overload. As a result, concentration and productivity suffer whilst stress levels and sick days increase.

A paper published by the Royal Society claims there is no evidence that open-office space promotes open interaction or increases productivity. Because of the lack of privacy, people prefer to communicate via email than talk.

The failure of the open-plan office is apparent. Millennials hate them even more than earlier generations. Subsequently, interior designers specialising in office design such as Office Principles ( are creating new concepts.

Activity-Based Working Space

Business analysis has found that workers are more productive when they have some privacy. Design ethics to improve creative performance include providing designated spaces for specific tasks.

The philosophy behind the Activity-Based Working (ABW) model is to optimise office space whilst giving employees the freedom to move around rather than being chained to a designated desk.

ABW offices are expected to encourage social interaction, foster team ethic, cater for high-level communication and provide employees with private “focus rooms” that allow increased levels of concentration.

Technology Central

Modern businesses cannot operate without technology. Needless to say, technology is central to the design and layout of future offices. Thanks to wireless internet and cloud computing, office workers have more freedom to move around and work from anywhere.

However, technology has to be integrated in the workplace design early in the reorientation process. Companies that adopt the ABW model for example, need to ensure that supporting technologies are available in designated spaces.

The ability to work from anywhere in the office also has to be organised through technology. Companies that adopt an agile seating policy will need to give employees the ability to book a specific space at a certain time.

Natural Light and Better Air Quality

Open-plan offices have been linked with the spread of illness, increased stress and poor posture. The solution is Biophilic offices which integrate natural elements that promote the health and wellbeing of employees.

An article published in Harvard Business Review reveals that natural light improves mood, increases productivity. Other studies also show that people that are exposed to natural sunlight have a balanced circadian rhythm and enjoy a better quality of sleep.

Plants and vegetation are also being drafted into modern offices to help promote the flow of natural air. Employees that work in Biophilic offices report less headaches, a reduction in drowsiness and fewer incidences of eyestrain.

In addition to ergonomic furniture, some companies are even introducing design aspects that encourage employees to practice healthy living. Juice bars, natural energy drinks and a space for meditation and yoga are among the health and wellbeing solutions.

Scientific discovery is the catalyst for the biggest shake-ups on the planet and with traditional office plans receiving such negative press, the onus for companies to upgrade their office design is tantamount.