Open-space offices — a thing of the past?

June 13, 2018


When choosing your future workplace there are lots of things that can get you excited. And your office space is one of them, as this is where you’ll be spending most of your waking hours. With the rise in popularity of open-space offices (like various new Facebook and Apple headquarters) the expectation was an increase in productivity and employee satisfaction. Now, some years on, let’s see just how well these working spaces are working out.

Open-space offices first appeared in Germany in the 1990s, the idea being to improve communication flow and idea exchange. Nowadays, it’s believed that about 70% of offices are open-space.

However, first research results were not very optimistic — worker satisfaction decreased and, as a result, perceived productivity fell. The interaction between employees became more uncontrolled and people felt their privacy was being infringed upon. Nowadays there are hundreds of studies about office environments and the stats keep adding up.

Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, looked at over hundred studies and in 2011 published his conclusions about open-space plans. In short:

Great for the organizational mission

On the plus side, open-space offices cultivated a better sense of organizational mission. Basically, by having a modern open-space office an enterprise was communicating efficiently — “we’re more laid-back and innovative!”

Not so good for productivity

For employees it was harder to concentrate in open-spaces, which influenced their attention spans, satisfaction and motivation. As a result, they showed higher levels of stress than those employees working in standard offices, and the open-office workers were paying for it in productivity.

Might even be detrimental to health

A recent study in Denmark also showed that with the rise in the number of people working in a single room, there was also an increase in sick leave. Noise pollution has also been indicated as one of the issues negatively affecting employees.

 So, if your career is still young, you’re used to multitasking and open-space office looks like fun, don’t give it a second thought. However, if your work demands that you apply more focus on what you do and exposure to too many stimuli might be problematic, then think about this carefully.


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