Finance News & Insights

Are open-plan offices bad for work?

Feel stressed? Can’t stay productive for more than a few minutes? Know what’s to blame? Your company’s open floor plan.

Research from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation claims that open floor plans, while favored by businesses because of their lessened construction costs, might do more harm than good.

According to head researcher Dr. Vinesh Oommen, “The outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, without offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”

Those symptoms occured in 90% of employees who worked in open offices.

Open floor plans make it easier for co-workers to talk to one another, but that may be more of a distraction than anything, claims Dr. Oommen. “There are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity,” the study reads.

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  • Yes, working in a open office sucks! You cannot talk on the phone without someone coming to you asking questions and bothering you while you are trying to conduct business. Especially when you have some employees who will walk in and talk loud. You try to be cordial and polite by telling the employee to speak softly. But when they are talking loud and they do not hear you, it is very annoying!

  • After working in industry for 20+ years with a private office (and door), moving to an organization where most of our employees are in cubicles with 5’6 walls has been an eye-opening change. It is very distracting, and leads to many more interruptions, and lots of “hallway” conversations – frequently right outside my “office”. I really dislike it. In my previous “life” I also had space that was allotted based on responsibilities and the my “level” in the mgmt structure. My current organization is moving toward equality in space so as to not make those on the lower end of the structure feel less worthy. For me, it is much less convenient, since I can no longer have the many meetings that I am involved with in my office – I must book a conference area and take all of the necessary stuff with me. I also cannot have any confidential conversations in my office area, or on the spur of the moment. I certainly feel less valued, even though I have far more responsibilities than I had in my previous position.

  • Steve Jackson

    There are technological solutions to reduce this issue. Have a look at http://www.privatemeeting.co.uk

  • Julie

    Definitely, there is a ton of evidence that open plan offices are detrimental to productivity, wellbeing and even health of the employees. What was meant to facilitate communication and idea flow turns out to be a hyper distractive environment decreasing employees’ motivation, engagement and satisfaction. To reduce the detrimental effects of noise, destructions and overexposure you can create private spaces with portable, retractable privacy screens like Kwickscreen: https://www.kwickscreen.ca/