IELTS Writing Task 2: Open-Plan Offices
Sometimes you get a question that seems a bit ‘random’, like this one!
But stay calm, stick to the plan, and keep writing!
Nowadays, the design of some buildings such as offices and schools is more open-plan than separate rooms.
Why has this happened?
Do you think it is a positive or negative development?
Why did this happen?
This is a chance for you to outline the 3 or 4 main advantages of open-plan offices/schools:
1) They’re cheaper.
2) They’re easier to adapt to a changing workforce – the workspace is more flexible.
3) Everyone can see what everyone else is doing, so people may work harder.
4) They encourage interaction – teams may thrive, leading to enhanced communication, camaraderie, and fostering collaboration.
Is it a positive or negative development?
Personally, I find open-plan offices unbearable, so I will argue that they are a negative development with 2 main reasons:
1) They’re distracting and noisy – it’s impossible to get work done when you’re constantly disturbed.
2) The lack of privacy causes stress and anxiety as you feel you are under surveillance, and this makes you less productive.
How to start
The first line is always the most difficult.
Some teachers advise you to paraphrase the question.
I prefer to put the question in context e.g.
- Is it a recent development?
- Is it a well-known problem?
- Why are they questioning open-plan office?
Then put your ‘thesis statement’ – tell the reader what to expect and how you will organise your answer.
It is very unusual to see a workplace with individual offices these days. As companies have increased in size and the workforce has become more fluid, there is a greater need to make the best use of the space available. Open-plan offices have many benefits, which I will outline below. However, in my opinion, working in such an office brings significant drawbacks.
There are a number of reasons why open-plan offices work. Firstly, they are cheaper and easier to manage – a lack of walls maximizes the number of desks and workers, making the office more profitable for the company. No-one has a job for life anymore, so a ‘hot-desking’ system allows staff to come and go without major disruption. In addition, the fact that everyone can see what everyone else is doing means there is less likelihood of staff spending a lot of time on Facebook when they should be working. Perhaps most importantly, communication and collaboration are enhanced, which may foster more creativity and idea-sharing.
With so many positives, it may be difficult to see any drawbacks, but for a certain type of worker, a noisy and bustling working environment is extremely distracting and causes great stress and anxiety. Many people need complete silence in order to focus and be productive, and I find it difficult to imagine how a schoolroom could function effectively under an open-plan system.
In conclusion, the layout of an office is usually best-suited to the managers’ needs rather than the workers’. More forward-thinking companies have realised that in order to get the best out of different types of employee, they will have to provide suitable working areas so as to reduce stress and ensure a happy and efficient workforce.
Check out this interesting article below about open-plan offices:
Open-plan offices allow employees to see and hear their colleagues all day long, so you might think all this transparency would encourage them to work more collaboratively.
But according to new Harvard research, this type of office environment actually has the opposite effect: it reduces the amount of time people spend talking face-to-face and instead drives them to interact by text or email.