Open office floor plans are quickly replacing the cubicle-heavy office spaces of yesteryear. While trendy, the open office layout isn’t for everyone. Before you reorganize your office into an open, more social space, consider the pros and cons.

The Pros and Cons of an Open Office Layout

In an open-office environment, employee workstations are located together rather than in individual cubicles or private offices. Despite their rising popularity, research has shown that open offices tend to have more drawbacks than benefits. Still, this research doesn’t negate the open office’s strengths.

What Are Open-Office Pros?

Better Communication Between Workers

When an office lacks physical barriers, employees are more likely to communicate with one another and work as a team. Naturally, improved communication boosts collaboration efforts between various levels of employees, so even a manager can feel more approachable.

Open offices are also great for freelancers who would otherwise work from home. Renting a work space in an open office gives self-employed workers the chance to communicate and network with other creatives, which can be beneficial to their respective businesses.

There’s even a term for this phenomenon called “culture collision,” which is when chance encounters occur between workers in an open-office space. Culture collisions are conducive to creativity, support, and creating a sense of community.

Cost-Effectiveness

Open offices are more cost-effective than traditional cubicles or private offices. With less overhead, you can ensure each employee has the necessary space and equipment to conduct business. Just think how much you can save when you don’t have to buy large individual desks and cubicle walls.

In fact, many small businesses are opting to rent fully furnished private offices with open office layouts located inside dedicated work space buildings. These types of office spaces already include access to high-speed internet, multifunction copiers, common areas, free refreshments, and professional cleaning services. Since this option is much cheaper than leasing an entire building, floor, or office rental, you can invest more money into the company as it grows.

Flexibility

With an open-office plan, you don’t have to commit to a single layout. Open work spaces are designed to maximize flexibility. You can also fit more employees into an open space. As the office grows, you can rearrange the layout however you see fit, or simply move certain teams around. In traditional layouts, you would have to expand the office by renting multiple floors or buildings.

For remote workers and freelancers, shared open offices don’t require any type of commitment whatsoever. You can simply come and go as you please based on your membership. Nothing is more flexible than that.

Better Aesthetics

Open offices boast clean lines and trendy vibes that you won’t find in cubicle-laden spaces. In fact, cubicles can make an office feel smaller and more confined. All those unsightly cubicles add nothing to the office’s atmosphere and can even diminish creative thinking.

Cubicles largely came into use during the 1960s, and not much has changed since then. While they do provide privacy, each one is indistinguishable from another, which can make employees feel trapped.

When you opt for an open office, there’s more room to breathe. As such, you and your teammates have more creativity in how you decorate the space.

No More Barriers

One of the biggest reasons more businesses are choosing open offices is because the layout removes barriers between employees and supervisors. There are literally no offices for managers to hole up in, which often makes them seem unapproachable.

Without physical barriers, even the founder of a startup can work on the same level as her newest employees without anyone feeling like they’re lower on the rung. Since everyone feels part of the team, there’s an instant increase in employee innovation and communication between departments.

Trendiness

While the open-office layout started as a creative trend, its lasting power is undeniable. Since so many other companies have switched to open offices, businesses stuck in the cubicle age can appear behind the times.

When you meet with fellow business owners, clients, and vendors in your open office, you leave a positive impression on them. Holding a meeting in a traditional office will suddenly appear stuffy and dated to anyone who works in an open-office setting.

This isn’t to say you should make the switch to an open-office layout because everyone else is doing it, but it can be beneficial.

What Are The Cons of Open Offices?

Distractions

One of the biggest drawbacks of an open office is the amount of distractions. You’ll hear multiple conversations occurring around you throughout the day, both in person and on the phone. You may even start to notice a co-worker’s annoying little habits, which can draw your attention away from your work.

This isn’t to say that cubicles provide distraction-free work environments. On the contrary, they can be just as loud, but cubicles do provide a sense of privacy that can make it easier to focus.

With an open layout, employees will need to find more innovative ways to drown out co-workers and stay focused. They may also become more considerate of others naturally, which can help keep the noise levels in check.

Lack of Privacy

Most people in favor of cubicles tend to dismiss the open-office concept because it doesn’t offer any privacy. When you’re working next to several other people in close quarters, it’s true that you can’t make a private phone call without someone overhearing, but many co-working spaces account for this issue by offering private phone booths on-site.

While a lack of privacy can be a downside, it also has its benefits. Workers are more likely to stay focused and keep those private phone calls and texts to a minimum.

Naturally, a lack of barriers also gives bosses the ability to keep an eye on employees. While this is certainly a pro for the boss, it can be a con for the employee who feels anxious about always being watched.

Stress

Given their lack of privacy and increased distractions, open-office spaces can be more stressful on employees. In fact, research has shown open offices tend to cause age discrimination because older workers are more likely to deal with anxiety, cardiac issues, and digestive problems from the stressful environment. When this happens, they quit. Older candidates are also more likely to be passed over for younger applicants in open-office environments.

Since employees feel as if they constantly need to give the appearance of productivity, they start to multitask more, which often leads to frustration and ineffectiveness. Open-back visibility, in particular, can cause neurological problems like vertigo. It can also make a worker feel paranoid that someone is always looking over his shoulder.

Germs

Without cubicles or walls, an employee fighting a cold is more likely to spread it to surrounding co-workers. In the worst-case scenario, the entire staff gets sick and productivity wanes as more employees need to take sick days.

While you can’t do much to avoid the spread of germs in an open-office environment, you can stress the importance of employee handwashing, desk sanitizing, and staying home sick rather than bringing the illness into the office.

Open Office Layout Ideas

With the open-office concept, the layout possibilities are endless. You can utilize any space regardless of size to maximize productivity.

Desk Groups

Try grouping a few desks together where the employees face one another but still have space to walk around their grouping. This layout is particularly effective for teams or departments since each group can communicate openly but still feel separated from other “departments.”

Reduced Open-Back Visibility

Many open-office layouts simply line desks against walls or in front of windows to give workers a nice view and more natural light. While this can be a nice layout, you should try minimizing open-back visibility. Instead of having employees facing a wall or window, try turning the desks so each one faces into the room.

Diverse Spaces

An open office doesn’t have to have the same layout across the entire room. Create unique desk groupings and private spaces for different needs. Having private phone booths, for instance, is a great way to reduce anxiety in an open office and give workers a break from the monotony. Adding couches for employee use is also a great way to encourage movement throughout the space.

Given the many benefits and options for creating the ideal open office, why not take advantage of the ongoing trend? Cultivate creativity and a sense of belonging with the modern office.

WeWork’s 2019 Global Impact Report reveals how WeWork helps individuals and businesses thrive, energizes neighborhoods, and accelerates economic growth in 75 cities around the world. Here are some of our community’s stories.

Essence, the global media agency, was on a tear last year, growing its workforce 40 percent to more than 1,600 employees. With an agency that large, you might expect typically high turnover—but the company, which counts Google, T-Mobile, Target, and NBC Universal among its clients, managed an employee-retention rate of 80 percent in 2018 amid the rapid changes, says Katie Farber, Essence‘s vice president for talent acquisition for North America.

“That number speaks volumes to what is working here,” Farber said. “People want to work in a tech-friendly environment; we use a lot of digital tools that allow for flexibility. Candidates look for a strong commitment to diversity; we’ve pledged to achieve complete gender parity in the C-suite by 2025. And we launched a development program to foster the careers of men, women, and gender-nonbinary employees, and instituted mandatory training on unconscious bias.”

Essence’s accomplishment is especially formidable given the current employment statistics: Unemployment rates in the U.S. dropped to 50-year lows last year, and more people are quitting jobs than being laid off. This means it’s a job seeker’s market, and the onus is on the employer to compete and make sure those people stick around.

WeWork reached out to other HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers for advice on how companies can strengthen hiring and retention. Here are four key takeaways:

Culture + values > salary

To retain talent, employers have traditionally had to ensure employees feel fairly compensated, personally valued, and that they understand their career path and know they’re making a contribution, says Elizabeth Zea, cofounder and managing partner of JUEL, an executive search and talent consultancy, and a member at New York’s WeWork 54 W. 40th St.

But recently, she says, another requirement has taken precedent—even ahead of salary. “The new dimension is, ‘Do I believe in the ethics and the values of the company I work for?’” she says. “Companies that are thoughtful about all five dimensions are more likely to keep talent.”

A 2017 Glassdoor analysis found that across all income levels, culture and values (not pay) were the top predictors of workplace satisfaction, and research from LinkedIn found that negotiating salary ranked about the same as dealing with email (ninth and 10th place, respectively) on a list of top challenges faced by U.S. employees.

Physical space speaks volumes

It’s clear when you walk into an office how a company thinks. Is collaboration valued? Are face-to-face interactions encouraged over marathon Slack conversations?

“When I first went to Google, I was totally blown away,” says Zea. “The physical space was a manifestation of a new way of working: opportunities to randomly bump into colleagues, wildly different conference room settings, open space versus private.”

Inspiring work spaces aren’t only for huge tech companies. “Coworking spaces are everywhere, and offer a ready-made culture for smaller or startup businesses that need a little head start,” says Wendy Read, the managing director for HR Revolution in London.

Coworking spaces can also give larger companies a recruiting edge: WeWork’s Global Impact Report found that 78 percent of enterprise members say WeWork helped them attract and retain talent.

“WeWork has enabled us to hire great talent that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” says  Leslie Kurkjian Crowe, chief people officer of TripActions, a business-travel management company that operates in five WeWork locations across the U.S., U.K., and the Netherlands. “Instead of being siloed in our Palo Alto headquarters, we now recruit the very best talent in cities all over the globe.”  

Tight hiring practices win

“One of the challenges bigger companies have is adapting to the speed [at which] talent gets hired,” said Allison Hemming, CEO of the New York-based digital talent agency The Hired Guns. Slower-moving companies that take a “waterfall”-type approach can end up in bidding wars for new hires.

To tighten the cycle, Hemming suggests taking an “agile” approach, borrowed from engineering teams. To start, companies should refine job postings, homing in on what they want the employee to accomplish in the next 18 months. Then, instead of bringing in one candidate a week for five weeks, front-load first-round phone interviews, and then move finalists into a meeting with the hiring manager—possibly all within a week.

“People notice when the second person they interview with would be the person they report to,” says Hemming, noting that it shows the candidate you’re eager to commit. “They take the opportunity a lot more seriously.”

Employment branding is key

Of course, you could be doing all of these things, but if job candidates don’t know it, they’ll be harder to attract. Read suggests that companies review their online presence—Glassdoor, Yelp, the company website—to make sure they compare favorably with the competition.

Aram Lulla, the Chicago-based general manager for executive recruiting firm Lucas Group’s HR practice, says employment branding has become the norm. Companies must be consistent about how their brand comes across in job posts and responses to candidates; first interactions, interviews, and follow-ups; and on-boarding and professional development.

“Every touchpoint is part of the employee experience,” Lulla says. “And that is very impactful to identify talent and retain that talent.”

Companies that are most successful at this do it authentically, says Read. “They make themselves the tribe that people want to join. You don’t have to be huge do this; small and startup businesses need to use their own ecosystems to gain reputation, be part of networks, and spread the word.”

Illustration by Laure-Anne Carré / The We Company

WeWork’s 2019 Global Impact Report reveals how WeWork helps individuals and businesses thrive, energizes neighborhoods, and accelerates economic growth in 75 cities around the world. Here are some of our community’s stories.

WeWork’s presence in 100 cities across 27 countries can provide an air of familiarity for jet-setting entrepreneurs. But business realities in so many markets are less consistent than the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. History, culture, technology, and economics shape the climate in which startups operate—and can make certain cities appealing for certain businesses (and maybe not so much for others).

Globally, WeWork is a powerful economic multiplier—by a minimum of 1.2 in international megacities like Sao Paulo and Seoul, and 2.3 in major U.S. cities like Seattle, according to the company’s first Global Impact Report. So we talked to four entrepreneurs and WeWork members from those cities about what it was like founding their companies there. These members—Hana Lee, CEO of vegan-skincare brand Melixir in Seoul; Mateus Teixeira, CEO of cryptocurrency gateway Warp Exchange in Sao Paulo; Jude Dai, founder of Immersive Square; and Zachary Rozga, CEO of the Consumer Engagement Company, both in Seattle—recognize the power of WeWork in letting them focus on their businesses. Here they share their best tips, lessons, and strategies for launching a business, no matter what city you’re in.

Play to your city’s strength

South Korea is to beauty products what Italy has long been to luxury fashion—so for Hana Lee, who worked for another Korean beauty startup for four years before launching Melixir, the decision to found her vegan-skincare line in Seoul was a no-brainer. “It’s really fast to make cosmetics in Korea,” says Lee, who was able to launch her first product in about six months, versus the typical two or three years. “I can be four times faster than manufacturing in the States, and I can react on trend very quickly.”

As new companies companies like Melixer and established businesses are recognizing how being in Seoul can help their business, they’re boosting the city’s economy. According to the Global Impact Report, the WeWork economy injected $1.2 billion into the local economy last year alone.

Warp Exchange’s Teixeira also thinks that founding his company in the Brazilian financial capital of São Paulo gives him an advantage. “We are at the very center of everything that’s happening,” he says. “Despite being a crypto gateway, we always have contact with the stock-exchange market, the finance market,” which Teixeira says has proved essential as he scales his business. The trends are on his side: He points out that there are twice as many people are invested in Bitcoin than in the national stock market.

Rozga found that Seattle’s greatest strength might be its large pool of coding talent—and coders’ eagerness to get involved in startups. “I’ve been able to get incredible engineers to help me build our technology product in their nights and weekends,” he says, which might not have happened had he launched elsewhere.

But also take advantage of its weaknesses

“Banking is in the middle of a revolution here,” says Teixeira. “New legislation that is coming to banks is changing how the market behaves. Currently we have an all-out war for the customer”—in particular, the tens of millions of “unbanked” Brazilians who are putting their money into checking accounts for the first time while searching for the lowest fees. Cryptocurrency, according to Teixeira, is a “solution for many of the problems” facing the Brazilian consumer in this changing environment. “You can be your own bank if you have your own cryptocurrencies.”

Go all in on your startup community

Jude Dai’s experience starting Immersive Square—which creates pop-ups and corporate events around augmented reality and other digitally-enhanced experiences—was completely dependent on her own deep involvement in Seattle’s startup ecosystem. She learned about immersive storytelling at a conference, “and that kind of put into my head that this was something I would like to do.”

Before long, she was networking with others in the industry at Meetup events and leaving her day job to work fulltime on her self-funded startup. “I’m glad I didn’t do the halfway—doing a daytime job and moonlighting a little bit—because I never would’ve been able to immerse myself sufficiently in the startup world,” she says.

Not only did Dai benefit from being at the epicenter of immersive experiences, but being a WeWork member helped her grow her business without eating into her budget. The Global Impact Report assessed a global savings of $24,000 for a member company over basing one’s company in traditional real estate.

Both Teixeira and Rozga enjoyed many benefits of being part of the WeWork Labs community. WeWork gave them the visibility that helped them scale up, Teixeira says—and he met a fellow member who became an investor and a housemate. For Rozga, Labs helped him expand his network beyond Seattle to L.A. and New York, where his media product is a more natural fit.

Or embrace your loner status

“Frankly, if I were to do it all over again, I would most likely not start this company in Seattle,” says Rozga of The Consumer Engagement Company. That may come as a surprise, given the city’s status as the home of Amazon, Microsoft, and countless startups. But for Rozga, that’s sort of the problem: His company, which creates an advertising product, has nothing to do with the core interests of that city’s tech community.

“If you don’t have the words “artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” “augmented reality”—if that’s not your core competency as a business, [investors in Seattle] just ignore [you],” Rozga says. “They just don’t care if it’s not something that’s going to be sold to Microsoft or Amazon.”

His solution: He took advantage of the city’s great coding talent while seeking investors elsewhere.

Dai, who is also in Seattle, hasn’t locked down any local investors either, but she sees potential in starting an impact-oriented product that’s outside the typical portfolio that appeals to hungry FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) acquisition teams.

“The vision I have in mind is not necessarily building to fit their roadmap,” she explains. “I’m looking for investors who invest in people who can work together with other entrepreneurs to build a sustainable business ecosystem. The world can use some diversity in it’s ‘portfolio.’”

Illustration by Laure-Anne Carré / The We Company

“Don’t just start a business for the money—do it for your heart,” said Cory Nieves, the founder and CEO of cookie delivery company Mr. Cory’s Cookies, crossing his legs and adjusting his glasses. Nieves founded Mr. Cory’s Cookies at age 6—and now, eight years later, the ninth grader’s business is booming.

On April 25, Nieves spoke at WeWork 500 7th Ave in New York during an event for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTWD). Eva Chen, the author of two children’s books (and the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram), and Lola Glass, professionally known as Lola the Illustrator, a 10-year-old blossoming muralist and member of the outdoor street art gallery Bushwick Collective, joined Nieves for a fun-filled afternoon of face-painting, storytelling, and superhero capes.

Nieves, Glass, and Chen talked to the audience about how to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in children—no matter their age. 

Let them explore. After Chen wrapped up her animated reading of bestselling children’s book Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, she opened the floor for questions. When a girl with a butterfly-painted face asked if Chen always wanted to be an author, Chen said, “This book is about trying to do different things and figuring out what you love. And once you find it,” she adds, “practice, practice, practice!”

While some children, like Glass and Nieves, show their superpower at an early age, others benefit from exploration. Parents’ job: Keep an open mind and allow them to try out different activities until they find their passion.

Put them in the driver’s seat. While you might assume that Nieves’s superpower is making delicious cookies, he’ll tell you it’s really his ability to talk to and become friends with anyone. His mother, Lisa Howard (also known as the “Cookie Mom”), is happy to let Nieves take the spotlight.

Howard and Nieves work together on the company’s day-to-day operations, but Howard knows when to let her son’s superpowers shine. For example, when Nieves caught wind that there would be a child at the TODASTWD event with an egg allergy, he was determined to bring cookies the child could safely eat. Howard wasn’t so sure about tinkering with recipes for one kid—but she agreed, and the two of them worked with their staff (aka “the cookie helpers”) to formulate an egg-free cookie.

Know when to lend a helping hand. Glass splashed color onto the canvas during her live illustration, periodically consulting with her mother on her progress. It was her mother who helped jump-start Glass’s career as a street artist when she was just 6 years old. Glass had been given a new spray marker when her mother took her to the Bushwick Collective for the first time—you can see where this is going.

“I started drawing on the walls, right on top of a wonderful Beau Stanton piece, just as Joe Ficalora, the curator of the Bushwick collective, walked by,” Glass remembered. Ficalora was furious—until Glass’s mom rushed over to talk to him. “After speaking with my mom, Joe asked if I wanted to join the Bushwick Collective.”

Let them be social. The guests emphasized that putting yourself out there is important for any entrepreneur, artist, or author. Glass’s advice for other artists: “If you’re shy, don’t be,” she said. “The process can be pretty scary, but you make the world better when you do art, whether it’s on a piece of paper or on a huge wall.”

Nieves admitted to having some jitters before a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. To get past it, while on stage, he pretended everyone in the audience was a cat. ”I had nothing to be nervous about because I was talking to cats,” he said matter-of-factly.

To get the word out about her book, Chen says she mentioned it to anyone who would listen, in person and on social media.

Believe in them. The hardest part about being a young entrepreneur, according to Nieves, is that adults don’t take you seriously. “But kids are getting into the business world and are actually hiring adults,” he pointed out.

Howard acknowledged that between homework, laundry, and making dinner, it’s easy to get distracted. “If you aren’t mindful, you may not recognize that your child has a gift,” Howard said to the crowd of parents. “If you don’t support your kid, how will anyone else support them?”

WeWork’s 2019 Global Impact Report reveals how WeWork helps individuals and businesses thrive, energizes neighborhoods, and accelerates economic growth in 75 cities around the world. Here are some of our community’s stories.

In 2017, Krystyn Harrison left her career in management consulting and started Prosper, an interview- and career-coaching app. As a self-described “serial entrepreneur” (she had previously started two other businesses), Harrison’s desire to start things was strong.

“I wanted to build something,” she says. But her insecurity was holding her back. “I was struggling with self-doubt. Meanwhile, I thought everyone else around me was superconfident, when the reality was that everyone was equally as nervous.” She overcame it, eventually, launching Prosper two years later and never once looking back.

Harrison runs Prosper out of Toronto’s WeWork 1 University Ave, and if she ever has another crisis of confidence, she merely has to look around at her fellow members, many of whom are also female business owners with companies in stages similar to hers. The impact extends far beyond Toronto. Globally, 39 percent of all senior roles—executives, senior managers, managers, and sole proprietors—at WeWork member companies are held by women, according to WeWork’s 2019 Global Impact Report, compared with just 24 percent worldwide outside of WeWork.

“I feel like WeWork provides a safety net—you have a support system that helps you create your dream, whatever that is,” says Mabel Luna, CFO at beverage brand Kombrewcha and founder and adviser of boutique financial-services firm A Business Collective. “There’s a lot of need for community regardless of the size [of your business], regardless of what reach you have. People want to make an impact, and I think WeWork helps especially women to do that.”

Luna, like Harrison, has a background in corporate America: She worked as both an auditor and a manager of financial operations before launching A Business Collective in 2014, with the aim of redesigning the financial culture of startups.

In her years in more traditional office settings, Luna says she found a limit on the support and growth opportunities available to women. But the playing field is changing, and those barriers largely installed by traditional gatekeepers are beginning to come down.

“I know it sounds simple, but if women are listened to about what our needs are, men will start to understand that we think a little differently, but we bring a lot to the table,” says Luna, a member at Brooklyn’s WeWork 134 N 4th St.

This is especially pertinent in fundraising, where, as of 2018, just 9.65 percent of decision-makers at venture-capital firms are women—and where female-founded startups raise just 2.2 percent of venture-capital investments. When it came time for Harrison to begin building Prosper, she was realistic about the challenges she might face.

“There were a lot of ‘nos,’ a lot of rejection,” says Harrison. “I’m sure men deal with [that] at an investor table just as much as women. But I do believe that in fundraising, women struggle with confidence around something that may not be sound.”

Harrison says that in fundraising, the gender gap even extends into something as fundamental as revenue projection: Women have a tendency to understate their numbers, whereas men will more typically overstate them. But in the end, she says, some of the most profitable companies are led by women, given these more-conservative financial estimates, among other research-backed reasons

The more women get comfortable at the investor table and in other deeply male-dominated industustries—and share their knowledge and experience with other women—the more their collective confidence will grow. That’s been the experience of Twenty Twenty Studios founder and executive producer Sarah Gerber. She found strength, solidarity, and confidence in her community of family and friends.

When Gerber founded her company, which creates storytelling for purpose-driven brands, in 2010, she admits could have benefitted from a different kind of supportive network—the professional one that Luna encountered at WeWork. But Gerber—who also serves as the CEO and co-founder of gender-equality nonprofit Zero Gap, launched in 2017—understands, in retrospect, just how influential a career support system can be in for female entrepreneurs getting their businesses off the ground.  

“That was definitely a very formative process for me,” says Gerber, now a member at WeWork 1111 Broadway in Oakland, California, of growing her own professional network, “and really build the foundation of not just my work but my work identity.”

Now nearly 10 years into her entrepreneurial journey, Gerber is able to rely on her own community of female business owners. This includes her Zero Gap co-founder, Mira Veda, who is a fellow WeWork member at the same location and to whom she was introduced by a WeWork community manager. Gerber is intent on passing along those relationships, and her mentorship, to her fellow female business leaders.

“Those relationships have been so valuable, not just for connections, but general encouragement,” says Gerber. “It’s particularly important for founders and people with smaller teams because it can be so lonely. And it doesn’t have to be.”

Illustration by Laure-Anne Carré / The We Company