Select Interiors

The open-plan office, is still relevant



For decades the trend among workplaces has seen employees moving out of individual offices and into open-plan spaces.

This has not always been successful, with the open-plan approach receiving significant criticism. The key issues are distraction and noise, which apparently leads to uncooperative behaviour, distrust and negative personal relationships, and the lack of privacy and sense of being universally observed – which are particularly problematic for women.

See typical open plan office design scheme by Select Interiors Ltd for Platinum Stair Lifts

See above section drawing of the scheme to convert the warehouse into

Now that the internet connectivity is available almost everywhere and thus allows much more flexible working, the question arises: What might the set-up of an ideal workplace environment look like today?

Perhaps like the scheme above by Select Interiors Ltd for 360 Resourcing, with Coffee Bar / Canteen, informal meeting spaces, playroom & gym?

Or the above more formal, open plan central in cellular clusters with a meeting, boardroom and meeting booths?

One response to the problems of open-plan spaces is simply to stop using them, as Ikea has done recently, structuring new spaces using its own taste for furniture design. But to be honest, I don’t see much of a difference to traditional workplaces based on the office “cubicle’’

A variety of approaches aimed at designing better open-plan spaces include the following ideas: use private offices surrounding a hub of a common area, purchase movable barriers so people can create private space as needed, create larger offices with two or three work areas, install cubicles with cathedral ceilings, skylights and tall windows, or introduce a work-from-home policy – while renting space for group meetings as required.

Select Interiors Ltd has worked with MediaCom to create an approach that allows sectors of the office to be distributed in a manner that still provides private areas.

We have had the opportunity to experiment with creating better open-plan spaces by visiting clients post fit out to see how the space planning has been received and feeding the results back to the design team, so we thought to try and put some of these ideas into practice.

See above for scheme that Select Interiors Ltd has designed for Levitt Bernstein that promotes subtle privacy but still gives a homely feel by introducing tall windows as dividers.

An experiment in open-plan design

We came up with open-plan designs for spaces and canvassed responses were fairly neutral, although some workers had doubts they could work in such an environment. We agreed after much debate a framework for the successful scheme would include the following:

  • Office space for permanent staff, plus flexible work units for guests;
  • A combination of working and social (informal) environment;
  • Opportunities for spontaneous discussions, but also quiet areas to do concentrated work
  • Finally, generating and maintaining high acceptance within the staff.

We first defined different areas: office space with desks, a social area containing kitchen and couches(see plan below), enclosed meeting rooms for discussions, rooms to go and make calls, and silent corners for quiet reading. This meant the group no longer had fixed telephone lines. Instead, everyone used a VOIP smartphone app, Skype for Business, which meant it was possible to sit anywhere and still make and take calls over an internet connection.

See above scheme that incorporates open plan working areas with informal meeting booths, coffee bar/café type space and formal meeting rooms within the same footprint for Mosaic Studios in York

Having passed legal and other requirements,  we asked our clients about their preferences, and whether seating plans worked efficiently. For example, it was decided that the Managers should remain in their own office, because they are generally involved in a lot of meetings and phone calls which would be difficult to incorporate into an open office space.


What we learned

It was not always clear in which situations one should move to another room. The solution was to ensure that each new employee had the rules explained to them. Sometimes people booked the communication or library rooms for all-day meetings, which meant they were out of use for others. This problem was solved by making it a requirement that regular meeting rooms were booked. Of course, sometimes discussions or phone calls in the open-plan area could become loud or lengthy enough to disturb others, necessitating a reminder that other rooms were available for that purpose.

In general, many positive aspects appeared to be true. To some extent, it improved team working, spontaneous collaboration, and cross-fertilisation of ideas in shared spaces.

What have we learned and what can we recommend to others? Well, an open office plan is not by default a good or bad thing. As always, you need to have a strategic approach behind it to make it work, and you need to consider that these designs can even have the opposite effect of hurting relationships.

First, you really need to consider what sort of work is suitable for different kinds of office set-ups. For instance, people who work in sales or customer support typically spend much of their time talking or receiving visitors, making it impossible not to disturb others (at least those not doing the same), so they need a different environment.

Second, the most difficult part is to ensure that the rules are followed consistently. Open-plan spaces can only work in the long run if all those working there stick to the rules and remind others of them. It’s very important that the top management lead from the front and aren’t hidden away in their own office, divorced from the experiences of their staff. Hence, it is key that group leaders not only share the same office space but also do not necessarily get the “best desk” – the one with the most privacy, for example – it’s important to show that the rules have the support of the leadership, in theory, and in practice.

Third, consider the working atmosphere such an office creates: it tends to lead to an open, more transparent environment in which behaviour is visible to everyone from the time an employee arrives at work – including who people are talking with and, often, what they are talking about. This can be seen as positive, fostering a feeling of togetherness. For others, such transparency can be uncomfortable.

Last, it is important to note that creative work depends upon many factors, our research indicates that the impulsiveness of team members plays an important role in their productivity. So overall, it has never been just about the open-plan office itself (which everybody seems to hate) but about each individual who spends their time working there – and how they make the best use fit. At Select Interiors Ltd we try to incorporate spaces for quiet, informal & formal meeting areas, with Coffee Shop style canteen, high and low soft seating as well as the typical ‘open plan’ layouts

See above for an example that Select Interiors Ltd has installed a canteen space for The Hive to incorporate a quiet space for the employers in the building


Latest news….

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have been invited to tender for the roll out of UK Skin & Laser Clinics. Scope of works include: demolition, partitioning, mechanical, electrical, bespoke joinery, graphics, signage, flooring & management

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have been invited to tender for the roll out Ezra & Gil, one of the Northern Quarter’s busiest coffee shops, is preparing to open a second site in Manchester city centre.

The popular brunch spot has snapped up for the former Subway site on Peter Street, close to Manchester Central Library and on the same stretch as Albert’s Schloss, Rudy’s and the Peaky Blinders bar.

The new cafe will have around 65 covers, making it slightly smaller than the 95-cover original site on Hilton Street, which opened in 2015 and has been busy ever since.

Scope of works include: demolition, partitioning, mechanical, electrical, bespoke joinery & metal fabrication, graphics, signage, flooring & management

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have won a contract to re-design works for Lake District Estastes Company Ltd in the beautiful Lake District National Park. A full reconfiguration & fit out of a shop / café / retail space on lake Windamere, also the re-development & interior design of their award-winning heritage railways between Ravneglass & Dalgarth. Scope of works includes full interior design package

See above design space planning and scheme proposals for The Lake District Estates a family-owned estates, land and property company by Select Interiors Ltd

Digital mood board finishes for Lake District Estates by Select Interiors Ltd

Select Interiors have completed some interior space planning & design for award winning agency Mosaic Studios in York, the brief was to create a dynamic flexible workspace circa 6000sqft for 55 workstations, utilising 10 existing. Scheme to be split with works areas, MDs & executive offices, high table combination breakout, collaborative and open plan spaces with RH side combining informal meeting spaces, Coffee Shop Canteen, games area, collaborative & brainstorming/presentation space, see below some clips from our digital mood board & drawings

Digital mood board by the Select team for Mosaic Studios

Plan layout in Revit for 50% of the scheme for Mosaic Studios in York

Lake District National Park

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have recently completed works for The Lake District National Park. A full reconfiguration & fit out of a café in Brockholes an outstanding example of Arts & Crafts architecture on Lake Windamere. Scope of works included bespoke hand-painted joinery, general carpentry, mechanical, electrical, ceramic tiling, Copper cladding, decoration & management

Jordan Fishwick

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have recently completed works for premium Estate Agents Jordan Fishwick on Deansgate in Manchester. The 4-week project was to design & fit out their new retail space & offices. Scope of works included bespoke joinery, general carpentry, mechanical, electrical, data, flooring, glazed balustrades, decoration, graphic design, furniture, illuminated LED displays, fixtures/fittings & management

V Properties

Select Interiors Manchester Shop & Office Fitters have recently completed works for the dynamic Vincent Cheng, Managing Director of expanding property letting agents V Properties on Manchester’s Deansgate. Scope of works included bespoke joinery, general carpentry, mechanical, air conditioning, electrical, data, flooring, glazed offices and sprayed glass cladding, decoration, graphic design, furniture, illuminated LED displays, fixtures/fittings &management


We at Select Interiors Manchester know It makes sense to create environments that not only make the most efficient use of space but that incorporate a sense of fun and unique bespoke elements to every scheme

Talk to the experts about how an engaging fit out can improve productivity and wellbeing to help attract & retain motivated staff call the Select Interiors design team on 0161445 4040

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