Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Visual Noise at Work

It seems the idea of  “just right” office space is always evolving. When we designed our office, we carefully weighed the benefits of open space, closed offices and everything in between. In the end, we landed on our own unique hybrid.

I’m glad we steered away from a completely open office, as I’m now hearing how it can create too much “visual noise” in the workplace. It turns out that open office design may be good for fostering relationships, and bad for actually getting anything done.

Open concepts leave a lot of room for distraction. For many, movement in the peripheral vision area breaks concentration, and cuts down on creativity. For this reason, designers are strategically placing objects to block interaction and promote privacy.

It’s been almost a decade since we built our office. I thought I had plenty of “great” design ideas back then. I favored an entirely open workspace, where everyone would interact and be more successful. Pretty much everyone at SP disagreed. Managing construction projects involves a lot of phone time, and our folks thought the conversations would compete. Now we know.

We have what I believe is a decent mix of openness and privacy. Each office has two glass walls–one to the outside (with screens) and one facing inside. The interior doors stay open most of the time, and large window walls next to them provide the “connect.” We’ve dedicated lots of space to common areas. For us, it works. Especially being able to open one’s window for fresh air.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.