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Open plan offices turn out to do more harm than good(1)

Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-12-03      Origin: Site

If you're distracted, unmotivated or even hate your job, you may want to pick on the office you're in, in addition to doing some self-examination. With companies such as Google and Yahoo adopting open plan office spaces, the office model has become a global phenomenon in recent years, with many companies following this 'renovated' format that encourages creativity, communication and collaboration between colleagues.


But do changes to seating arrangements and the use of office 'technology' really make employees more productive? Many young, fast-growing start-ups may favour this type of environment, such as some of the national and international platforms that offer office space for creatives, but not every company is suited to 'following suit'. A new study has recently found that creating an open plan working environment only 'looks good', and that this form of working can be a source of 'misery' for employees.

The way we work is changing and more and more businesses are rejecting tradition and opting for open plan working. However, research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health shows that working in an open environment is not conducive to productivity, with employees becoming distracted and irritable, and instead finding it difficult to communicate well with their colleagues. 

Previous research has also shown that staff are more likely to be distracted when sharing office space with others. Researchers at the Centre for Service Research at Karlstad University in Sweden looked at the link between office type and employee satisfaction, "showing a negative relationship between the number of employees sharing the same office space and job satisfaction. The higher the number of people, the lower the satisfaction level." Tobias Otterbring, lead author of the study, said.


The researchers "examined" office workers on two factors - the ease of interaction with colleagues and overall happiness. The study found that employees working in small open spaces with 3-9 people and medium-sized open spaces with 10-20 people had lower levels of interaction and happiness than those working in other types of offices.



Otterbring argues that open plan offices may have short-term economic benefits, such as bosses not having to think about wall partitions and better floor space utilisation. However, these benefits are not outweighed by the increased costs associated with reduced job satisfaction and happiness. So, when choosing a particular office type, company decision makers should consider the impact on employees, rather than focusing on which layout is more flexible, looks more productive, is more cost effective or even more 'popular'.

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