The supposed benefits of open-plan offices do not outweigh the costs

Posted on August 20, 2013

The worlds of business, office design and psychology really need to get their heads together. Large open-plan offices have become the norm across modern cities despite a sizeable literature documenting the disadvantages, including increased distraction and diminished worker satisfaction.

Open-plan offices are favoured by companies largely because of economic factors - more employees can be housed in a smaller space. But there are also supposed communication benefits. The idea is that open spaces foster more communication between staff and boost community spirit. A new study based on a survey of over 42,000 US office workers in 303 office buildings finds no evidence to support this supposition whatever.

But the key finding relates to whether the costs of lost privacy were outweighed for open-plan office workers by the benefits of ease of communication. There is in fact past field research to suggest that open-plan offices can discourage communication between colleagues due to lack of privacy. Consistent with this, there was a trend in the current study for workers in private offices to be more satisfied with ease of interaction than open-plan workers. Moreover, analysis showed that scores on ease of interaction did not offset open-plan workers' dissatisfaction with noise and privacy issues in terms of their overall satisfaction with their workspace.

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Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from British Psychological Society

Mental Health News