Skip to content
Latest > E&S Culture > The benefits of an open office plan and tips to stay focused.

The benefits of an open office plan and tips to stay focused.

December 23, 2016

As you may have recently heard, Ervin & Smith is packing up and moving into a brand-spanking-new office in Aksarben Village. The whole office is jazzed, because what’s not to love? The office is a blank slate, we’re only a stone’s throw from Thai and sushi restaurants, and for many, it’s a shorter commute.

As part of the transition process, employees got to check out the space preconstruction and give input on how they envisioned this new creative workspace. One of the most discussed points was how “open” we prefer the workspace. We talked about everything from having no set desk spaces to open floor plans to having private offices. I was surprised to find that people were all over the board when it came to this subject.

So with this in mind, I took to the Internet to see where the rest of the working world fell on the spectrum. Unsurprisingly, the online consensus was just as muddled. Go ahead and query “open floor plans office.” It’s okay, I’ll wait …

Well, you likely found the same bombastic, click-bait headlines claiming open space offices were “insanely stupid” or “destroying the workplace” accompanied by the rebuttals to those apocalyptic prophecies. In part, I get it. Change is scary and even more so if you grew up in an era when professional achievement and growth was measured by your physical place in the office. Perhaps a corner office was a very real goal of yours. It had the appeal of seclusion and unfettered focus while at the same time nonverbally communicating to the rest of the office that you had earned that spot.

But times have changed and the dream of working one’s way from the stock room to the corner office is no longer as common. A hundred years ago, the average lifespan of an S&P company was 67 years, which was plenty of time to work your way up. Now the average lifespan is 15 years, and that’s just barely enough time to age a single malt.

So if your office happens to be moving in the direction of or already residing in an open layout, here are some of the benefits you can expect.


Especially within the advertising industry, there is nothing more crucial to being a creative hotbed than collaboration. The worst thing we can do is become our own echo chamber, both as employees and departments. By having an open floor plan, both physical and perceived boundaries between people and departments are eliminated. When you can just whirl your chair around and pick your co-worker’s brain about the latest trends—as opposed to getting up and moving from your office to the next—you are naturally going to have a freer exchange of ideas. At the end of the day, if the flow of communication between co-workers is unrestricted, you foster better ideas and produce better work.

Co-worker bonding

Even if you are having the worst day ever (aka a Monday), your friendships and relationships with co-workers can turn your day around. When you have an open floor plan, it encourages conversation and bonding with the people around you. You can tell when people are having good days and bad, what their favorite food and music is, etc. The better relationships employees have with each other, the more they are going to enjoy working there. Do I really need to go further into why it’s good to like where you work?

Expand your worldview

In an open layout, you are 1,000 percent* more likely to be exposed to the other work going on in your office, even if it isn’t your client or department. Especially at Ervin & Smith or any ad agency, there are so many different kinds of projects going on at any given moment, and an open floor plan can really pull you out of your mental bubble. You will never realize how beneficial it is until you’re sitting down with a client and are able to leverage that knowledge to offer more creative solutions.

But even with these benefits, it’s possible that all that collaboration and fun could make concentrating in the workplace more difficult. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your eight -hour workday.

Audio fixation

Just as everyone has his or her own taste in music, people find they are able to focus best in a variety of sound settings. Music streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music are great resources with previously curated lists based on mood, genre and artist. You also have the ability to make your own playlists if you think you can do the job better yourself. Another popular option for more engaged listening is podcasts. Whether you’re into cars, movies or just pop culture, there is a podcast out there for you. While it may be best suited for more busywork, podcasts are a great way to keep your mind sharp, as well as take a mental break from work-related worries. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who needs radio silence in order to zero in on your work. Investing in noise-canceling headphones will pay dividends for your productivity and help your co-workers know when you are available to talk and when you are not.

Make it a phone call

When you have a modern layout, sometimes it is easy to just walk over to someone’s desk to ask a question, because it’s so open and they seem available. There are times when it’s something you can’t convey over Lync or Slack, but you’re worried that walking over to someone’s desk to deal with it in person will derail into a “Game of Thrones” recap. Oftentimes, that conversation can be condensed down considerably by picking up the phone and making a simple call. The worst-case scenario is you miss them, and it goes to voicemail where they will see that they missed your call and call you back.

Avoid lunching at your desk

When you make a habit of taking your breaks at your desk, you may be inadvertently blurring the line for your co-workers on when it is an appropriate time to talk with you. You are also robbing yourself of an opportunity to take a mental break and socialize with your co-workers without derailing your focus. Whether it’s sitting in the break room or going out to lunch, stepping away from your desk can help you create boundaries for your co-workers: When I’m at my desk, it’s time for work; When I’m away eating lunch, I can chat.

As the modern office changes, so will the way we work and interact. So enjoy the company of your co-workers, appreciate privacy when you can get it, and most importantly, invest in cute office supplies because it is also a secret underground war of whose desk is the most interesting/put together/stylish.

Go forth and conquer.


*So maybe it’s not 1,000 percent, but honestly, I’m super proud of you for even checking in the footnotes.

More from the Latest.