Why You Should Rethink Your Open Plan Office

You’ve seen one recruitment office, you’ve seen them all, right?

There are small differences perhaps.

Little idiosyncrasies that let you know you’re now in an Industry Leading business, not just a run of the mill one. One that’s the fastest growing. One that’s truly bespoke.

You can tell by how big the words on the wall are. Instructing both staff and visitors “Professionalism” is good. Or being “Expert”.

Here’s the thing. At every one, you walk past the first barrier, either a receptionist or frosted glass and Into The fray!

If you’re an office foreigner, 85% of the room will turn around instantly for a sneak peak.

Their intention isn’t to intimidate.

It’s ingrained.

You’re a new face.

And the office walls don’t change too much.

I’d estimate 95% of recruitment offices are open plan. Sure, there might be dividers between desks where you can stick cute pictures of your next house. Target Porsche. Or, perhaps your family if the background of your phone and computer screen don’t suffice.

But the room itself will likely be one, big, open, space.

Is that a good thing?

We’re here to find out… 


‘The buzz’

There’s one very big argument for having an open plan office.

And it’s evident the first time you walk in. A hundred eyes give you the once over. Like that recurring dream you have of strutting down a catwalk. Naked. OK, maybe just me.

But there’s a hustle and bustle to a recruitment office that’s hard to manufacture with barriers like walls.

You hear one person make a placement and the room picks up. A good sales call inspires a desk. You can arrange dinner plans. You can see the physical reaction of sending a risqué Ed Hunter article round.

With walls, come barriers.

I know that’s a fairly obvious statement, but I’m referring to the emotional barriers. Not the, glaringly obvious physical ones.


If you’ve got a boss who’s in tune with the world of productivity, you’ll have Slack.

Or something like Slack.

Where communication between you and them, and everyone else in the business is instantaneous.

Without wishing to be disparaging about the community I love, recruitment’s not the most forward thinking industry. That means, I’d guess there are a lot of people reading this who still communicate internally with email.

Firstly, please stop.

Please, for the love of your business, stop doing that.

It’s unnecessarily time consuming. You won’t realise by how much until you change.

In place of instant chat, not having walls in an office obviously means you can shout. And that’s a good work around. But it’s not ideal. A shout doesn’t stay in someone’s head if they’re on the phone.

With an open office, you can communicate effectively and quickly.

But it’s by no means perfect. ‘Communication’ doesn’t stand up as an argument for the defence.

I’m going to rattle through the three lesser arguments here. Open offices look cool and are easier to expand. And of course, cost less.



Cash. Capital. Coin. Coppers. However you measure it.

Recruiters love looking at financials. When things are good.

But imagine renting an office, painting the walls, sticking in desks. Hardware. Phone lines. Your ‘Best Company to Work For’ award from 2016.

And then, forking out for a refit with walls.

It doesn’t make financial sense. It’s an unnecessary structure. Therefore an unnecessary expense.

But I’m here to say, it might make sense. Both strategically and financially. So, for the sake of your bottom, line, keep reading.

The Science

There’s an incredible amount of research to suggest productivity suffers as a result of being open plan.

A study from Karlstad University, Sweden, showed the more people share a work space, the less satisfied they are, and dialogue with colleagues actually suffers.

A study from The University of Canterbury, NZ, found open plan offices increase sickness and emotional cognitive irritation. Whilst decreasing mental ability, productivity and job satisfaction.

A study at The University of Sydney noted 50% of those in an open plan office, and almost 60% of people with cubicles, are dissatisfied with their sound privacy.

16% of people in private offices said the same.

Is ‘sound privacy’ something that would benefit your job as a recruiter?


And this is where I tailor my advice for recruitment. You do sometimes need sound privacy. Occasionally, that privacy’s needed on the phone. To send an email. To write a presentation. To think. Or, perhaps just in down time.

Down time. At work.

I know, I said it.

Wait, I’ll say it again…

Down time, in a recruitment office.

Breathe that sentence in.

Times when you need to research. Or read. Or focus on something that might not need constant noise. Meeting rooms are great for taking calls from Rec2Recs or your mates at rival agencies, but you need more.

You need a room where it’s acceptable to disappear from the noise. You return, obviously. But at your own rhythm. You need the freedom to work how you’re wired.

To use noise to your advantage. At the times of the day you require it.

Everyone loves being in an office with banter and buzz.

But everyone also loves being able to think clearly.

With clearer thinking comes a more attuned workforce. Which brings better billings. Harbours higher happiness. Remedies ropy retention. Sculptures superior success.


“So, I’ve got to build a wall now?”

Not necessarily.

I’m not saying, it’s in everyones interests to have their own office.

Nor am I suggesting you split up the space with large, imperious structures that drive a stake through the heart of your camaraderie.

But I am saying, whether you work in WeWork, Privately owned listed building, or an open plan behemoth overlooking Sydney harbour… you need to have the freedom of walls occasionally.

Freedom from your office.

Freedom from your boss.

And as great as they are, you need freedom from your colleagues.

If you need help with that conversation, send them a link to this article. On Slack!