What is an office

Open plan office: rules, advantages and disadvantages

Quite a few companies use it, but only a few offer real benefits. We're talking about Open plan office, in which numerous employees work in a large open space. The idea behind it was originally to shorten communication channels and simplify cooperation. Even if there are clear guidelines regarding the exact dimensions, practice shows that open-plan offices can be exhausting and problematic for employees. We have the most important ones so that we can work together in day-to-day work Rules, advantages and disadvantages put together for you ...

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Open-plan office definition: the office concept

There is no one-size-fits-all definition of an open plan office. However, she understands Workplace rule (ASR) including one ...

Organizational and spatial summaries of office or computer workstations on a 400 square meter or more area, which can be structured with partitions.

In addition, the number of employees is 20 people as a typical criterion for an open-plan office.

The design can be very different; one knows a lot from American offices cube-like workplaces, which is why the open-plan office in English (actually: plan office, open office) also synonymous as cubicle or box referred to as.

Open plan office: only compliance with legal requirements or oasis?

The legal requirements for open-plan offices are regulated in the Workplace Ordinance. The workplace rule explains the requirements for Room dimensions of work spaces and movement areas in Section 3a Paragraph 1 and Section 6 Paragraph 1 of the Workplace Ordinance in detail.

This is about issues of freedom of movement, height, floor space and air space. The workplace ordinance takes into account the requirements for the floor area Body measurements of a person including possibilities of movement.

As a result, for office and screen spaces, a Space requirement from eight to ten square meters, for open-plan offices one assumes more of 12 to 15 square meters. The movement area at the workplace must be at least 1.50 meters.

Associations such as battery packs are no coincidence: If you recall such cubicles, they appear in the mind's eye monotonous office desertsthat have nothing inspiring about them - one place is the same as the next, individuality: nonexistent. Apparently companies like Google or LinkedIn have also seen this.

Modern open-plan offices have a different floor plan and are much more individual in design than they used to be. In Zurich, for example, Google has established a regional connection to the company by using gondolas as alpine Identification feature integrate into the office landscape. These gondolas are mini meeting rooms or offer the possibility of retreat for undisturbed work.

The Munich branch of LinkedIn is also pursuing a concept in its open-plan office that offers opportunities for retreat. Here, for example, in the form of Play areas and break rooms with televisions.

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Open plan office: few advantages, higher sickness rate

The advantages once hoped for can be observed in a few open-plan offices, but they are not the rule. For example, a study by the Stress Research Institute in Stockholm shows that workers in open-plan offices almost twice as often are sick, like their colleagues in smaller office units.

On the one hand, the easier disease transmission in the open-plan office plays a role, but the relatively high one Stress levels constant background noise and distractions should not be neglected.

Other studies also show the negative influence of Overstimulation and noise. Even an average noise level of 55 decibels is perceived by most people as stressful and leads to a rise in the adrenaline level.

You can therefore work out how much more stressful open-plan offices must be, if on average there 70 decibels prevail - by the way, this corresponds to the noise of a lawnmower constantly plowing through the workplace.

Open-plan office under the microscope: advantage or disadvantage?

Open-plan offices are still in the minority - but the targets of many companies require one economic optimization of office space. This means that despite all the findings, the number of open-plan offices will increase rather than decrease in the future.

You can go to the establish ask - after all, open-plan offices are generally considered to be unattractive. We took a closer look and show the advantages and disadvantages of this office concept here:


  • The workplace can be special design flexibly, as it often only takes a few mobile items such as partitions, roll containers, tables and chairs.
  • New employees can easily be assigned a place and can easily get into it Include structure.
  • The communication is simplified; often you can call the neighbor directly over.
  • The cooperation results in informal conversations and thus also the Sense of community promoted.
  • The use of space is much more efficient because it is more unwanted Vacancy is avoided. This pays off, for example, when employees are sick or on business trips.


  • A permanent one Noise level makes concentrated work difficult. Not only the colleagues themselves, but also copiers in the room or doors that are constantly open contribute to this.
  • Due to the crowd, there is also a concentration of bacteria and viruses and thus increased infection.
  • Employees inside the room have little to no daylight.
  • Comparatively long ways to equipment such as copiers or other office utensils.
  • Different people with different needs in a small space offer a certain Potential for conflict.
  • A high level of social control: Not only the boss can see if you are working, colleagues can also follow every step and every phone call.
  • Environmental factors such as climate and lighting are not individually adjustable. As an employee, you often have the choice between the two extremes of smell or draft.
  • The effort for the artificial air conditioning is high.
  • There is not only an acoustic, but also an acoustic one visual restlessness. This makes work especially difficult for HSP students.

Open plan office: rules for a nerve-friendly coexistence

We have one for everyone who still has to work in an open-plan office Survival guide:

Employee side:

  • Take consideration and respect the limits of others.
  • If necessary, reduce the background noise as well Earplugs.
  • Hire information sign with "do not disturb" on the table.
  • Reach for sprinkling through soothing Instrumental music.

Company Page:

  • Bosses and executives are actively involved, help shape the work and are Part of the team.
  • The Spatial planning is actively carried out and the needs of the teams are taken into account.
  • Soundproofing devices such as carpet and covered partition walls must be planned.
  • There are - at least at times - Alternatives to the open plan office.
  • There will be the ability to flexible working hours admitted: It reduces the noise level enormously through different working hours.
  • The employer provides clear rules for togetherness.

In other words: if an open-plan office is well thought out and consciously designed, it can function. However, whether it is the best individual solution should be checked on a case-by-case basis.

The ABC for the open-plan office: The goal is to survive

After so much theory, now a few more practical tips for the open-plan office - in the form of an ABC ...


The shape of the open-plan office doesn't necessarily make work easier for employees. Therefore, it should at least be ensured that the individual workplace can be designed according to one's own ideas and needs. In this way, not only productivity but also employee satisfaction can be increased.

Office dog

Regardless of whether it is an office dog, office cat or office iguana: whether and when animals can be present should not only be decided by the employer, but by the entire team. Aside from allergies, fears or aversions towards certain animals can also play a role. It should go without saying that consideration should be given to such things.


In many professions, Skype or conference calls are part of everyday work. As practical as these are, they can also become annoying and exhausting in the open-plan office. Companies should therefore ensure that there are separate rooms for this so that colleagues are not disturbed by long calls.


Fragrances can have a very positive effect on wellbeing and the working atmosphere. However, they can also lead to headaches and nausea. As with all other design issues, the same applies here: The entire team should decide. If no amicable solution can be found, special fragrances should be avoided in case of doubt.


In the open-plan office it is similar to in the train: Small snacks in between will probably not bother anyone, but loud chewing or odor-intensive dishes are taboo. If you eat a kebab, tzaziki or other strongly smelling meals, you shouldn't be surprised at evil looks and comments.


Productive work is usually only possible in an open-plan office if the working atmosphere and the relationships between colleagues are right. Strongly individualized demands that also run against the interests of others are not beneficial here. If you want to work well with your colleagues in the long term, you have to take your own needs back a little at times.

Background noise

Even if all employees work in silence, the background noise in open-plan offices is usually enormous. In addition, the noise level usually lasts the whole working day. Due to the permanent exposure, the background noise in the large room can become a real health problem and not only disturb concentration. Employees can remedy this with headphones. The employer should of course allow their use.


One of the great advantages of the open-plan office is the short communication and coordination channels. In this way, questions can be settled quickly and easily. Support can also be organized quickly - if there is a willingness to help among colleagues. All employees within an open-plan office should develop this characteristic. Everyone can be dependent on support at some point and should therefore also offer it to their colleagues.


Many open-plan offices act like anonymous work farms in which the employees pursue stupid activities at identical workplaces. This is a bit exaggerated, but it shows that individuality is also important in an open-plan office. If employers also offer their employees freedom of design in the open-plan office, the working atmosphere and ultimately productivity also benefit.

Annual planning

Regardless of whether it is vacation, extensive projects or employee appraisals: If a team is working together in an open-plan office, joint annual planning is even more important than usual. Since the employees sit more or less on top of each other every day, conflicts should be avoided in advance if possible. A clean, joint annual plan is extremely important for this.


The short communication channels already mentioned are a clear advantage of open-plan offices, but that does not mean that questions and information should always be exchanged in conversations. Having a chat at the coffee machine is important - also for team cohesion - but in everyday life, messengers and chats such as Yammer, Hip Chat, Slack, Skype or Hangouts are better alternatives for quick communication.


In the workplace, light can mean the difference between productivity and lack of drive. This applies even more to open-plan offices, where adequate lighting for every workstation can be a real challenge. When planning and constructing open-plan offices, companies should ensure that they bring enough light into the room. If daylight is not sufficient - for example in the dark winter months - daylight lamps can help.


Similar to calls, meetings should not take place in an open-plan office, but in their own meeting or conference rooms. It is important that these rooms can be booked easily and that the occupancy is visible to all employees. Experience has shown that the meeting rooms are then actively used and relieve the open-plan office considerably.


You shouldn't have a problem with claustrophobic states or with clattering impressions: In open-plan offices it is difficult to avoid a certain closeness. Sometimes there is overcrowding and then there is a lack of both spatial and social distance. This can be a challenge, especially with employees from different cultures.


Many companies confuse working in an open-plan office with completely self-organized work and leave the organization completely up to the employees. But this does not make companies live up to their responsibilities. For example, employers have to take the needs and requirements of teams into account when planning space and plan the open-plan office accordingly. And superiors are also required in everyday work and must take care of the organization of the work.


The open plan office is naturally a very public space. It is therefore all the more important that employees have recourse to areas of retreat and can protect their privacy as far as possible. This is also part of the necessary scope for employees in open-plan offices.


They exist in every company: colleagues who just get on the nerves of everyone else. Before you think of colleague A or B with a grin, let us give you a hint: Perhaps you yourself are this colleague sometimes. Small ticks such as knocking on the desk, rocking your foot or humming softly to yourself can also annoy your colleagues. In the open-plan office, you should refrain from doing this - and kindly point out the relevant ticks to colleagues.


All of the tips given so far and those to come have one thing in common: consideration. All employees should be considerate of each other, especially in open-plan offices. Here the well-known saying: “What you don't want someone to do to you, don't do it to anyone else” can serve as a guiding principle. In most cases, common sense and empathy are sufficient, in the remaining cases guidelines make sense.


Trust is good, but control has to be easy sometimes. This is how the situation in many open-plan offices can be summarized. In most companies, not all employees know each other personally. It is therefore necessary that employers offer the possibility of keeping valuables and personal effects safe. Theft or accidentally missing items can have a lasting effect on the working atmosphere.


It is quite possible that there is more than one team in an open plan office. It is therefore important to ensure that teams are positioned in the immediate vicinity and can work well together through the room planning and table arrangement. If a team is spread across the entire room, this can slow down productivity.


While interruptions are part of every workplace, they can be particularly annoying and frequent in the open-plan office. In order to reduce them to a minimum, it can be useful to set up internal rules. Basically, however, the consideration already mentioned should be used here. For example, those who wear headphones indicate that they do not want to be disturbed.


We have already mentioned: An open-plan office can mean additional work for supervisors and managers. Not only the organization of the work, but also the support of the team can be much more demanding here than in smaller office units. For this very reason, however, it is necessary for superiors to actively contribute and maintain contact with their team.

Knowledge transfer

In addition to the short communication paths, another advantage of the open-plan office can be the simple transfer of knowledge between different teams and employees. So that this works without disturbing other colleagues, meeting or discussion rooms and internal communication tools are essential. Ideally there is a central place where knowledge can be exchanged and documented. At least the exchange often takes place in the coffee kitchen.


Xenophobia or xenophobia have basically no place in the workplace. In an open-plan office with a multicultural or international team, however, it becomes a real problem. This calls for managers who are quick to talk to, draw clear boundaries and strive for solutions.


YouTube, Vimeo and other portals offer employees a pleasant change and can make the often necessary break much more relaxed. Lots of videos are really good entertainment. In the open-plan office, however, employees should enjoy these with headphones and avoid too loud fits of laughter or other expressions of emotion.

time management

In the open-plan office, the timing of the various employees can also play a role. For example, if everyone takes a break at different times, the constant coming and going can create enormous unrest that makes concentrated work almost impossible. Ideally, the employees therefore coordinate with one another.

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