Open vs. Closed Office Space: OH, PA & MI Businesses Deliberate [Survey Results]

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By: JC Pelusi, Market Leader, Managing Director, JLL 

The New Yorker called it the “open-office trap.” Inc said, “…open plans are better after all.” The debate over open versus closed workspaces is far from over.

Naturally, we wanted to know firsthand: What do business professionals in our neck of the woods prefer? Do they feel more productive in a cubicle, or a shared area?

Between September 23 and October 10, JLL’s regional office conducted a survey—targeting local business professionals in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania—to find out what’s really trending in office space. Out of 100 survey recipients, 84 percent said their office environment is either very important (42 percent) or important (42 percent) to individual success. So, it’s critical that employers pay attention and provide a desirable, attractive place to work.

What’s Trending in Office Space?

Of those surveyed, just over half (51 percent) currently work in an environment with a good mix of open and closed space. Another 36 percent work in more traditional offices, and only 10 percent reported working in an open office, with no private zones.


Survey Findings: Leading Trends

1. A majority of survey respondents (35 percent) said open, collaborative office space hinders individual productivity. Another 16 percent said these types of workplaces fuel their creativity and productivity.


2. When considering a new company or employer, real estate is definitely a factor (but not critical) in 70 percent of respondents’ decision-making process.


3. Eighty percent said their dream office would include a good balance of open and closed space.


One anonymous survey respondent articulates:

“I love the inspiration of an open office space, but sometimes when you need to think and get something done it helps to have a private space.”

Many offices in our region have already transitioned to include open spaces, and it appears businesses that don’t will lose a competitive advantage when it’s time to recruit.

The Future of the Office

So, you might be thinking, what does it all mean?

Here at JLL, we believe an employee’s workspace has powerful influence over happiness, productivity, creativity, and overreaching company culture. And, yes, local businesses are moving away from the traditional workspace to integrate open, collaborative areas for a mixed approach.

Does that mean your business should follow suit? Unfortunately, there is no universal workplace strategy that is a perfect fit for every business. There are, however, ways to determine what works best for your organization. Check out my recent post on Taking a New Approach to Workplace Productivity to get started. Or, check out JLL’s guide to a corporate relocation if you’re considering a move.

A baseline rule: Employers should give their employees the autonomy to choose throughout the day where they sit and work, whether it’s their home base  desk, a bustling lunchroom or in a creative writing room. Employees might choose private zones for more complex tasks, and open spaces for creative thinking.It’s not just fluff; it’s about the people in your organization.The future of the office will be built on the freedom of choice.

Survey Demographics 

Most survey respondents were at the managerial level (37 percent) or executive level (27 percent) employees. Thirty one percent were staff, and only five percent were entry level. When it comes to business size, 32 percent of respondents were from global firms, and 27 percent were from local firms, with one office. Twenty four percent indicated they were from local /regional offices, with more than one location.

The age range included a good mix, with the highest percentage between 31 – 39 (24 percent), followed by 21 – 29 (22 percent), and 50 – 59 (22 percent). Twenty percent were between the ages of 40 – 49, and 12 percent were 60 or older.

Didn’t get a chance to take JLL’s survey? Tell us what you think about open office spaces in the comment section below. 


About the Author

JC Pelusi_Headshot_webJC Pelusi is an International Director for JLL and works out of the Pittsburgh office.  As the leader for JLL’s Great Lakes region, JC has extensive experience in a variety of areas, including Corporate Account Management and Transaction Services.