Research: Open Offices Do More Harm Than Good

Trying to get work done in an open-plan office is difficult on the best of days. Various people may be having phone conversations at any given time, distracting those around them from their work. With the feeling that eyes could be on them at any given time, workers develop a self-conscious attitude about the way they perform their daily activities; they don’t feel free to accomplish their work “their way.”

And that’s just the beginning. What started as an optimistic idea with hopes for increased collaboration and unity has turned into an unproductive shambles. The conclusion? Open offices do more harm than good.

Let’s look at the research.

Employees Need Control Over Their Workspaces

The University of Exeter conducted a study that examined workers’ attitudes and productivity in relation to their working environments. In many cases, companies create “lean” working environments that strongly reflect a standardised corporate identity.

In the Exeter study, which surveyed more than 2,000 office workers, researchers found that people working in enriched workspaces (in which they could personalise their areas with plants and pictures) were 17% more productive than those in lean working environments. And those who worked at empowered desks (in which they could help design their own workspaces) were 32% more productive!

The researchers concluded that wise managers will recognise the improvements in productivity that could be made simply by giving employees more control over the spaces they work in. Portable partitions that allow employees more privacy and control over their spaces could be a simple solution to this problem. Some partitions are tackable, meaning you can hang pictures, calendars and other items right on the walls. This gives employees even more opportunity to personalise their own, private workspaces.

Open Offices Can Actually Harm People’s Health

Canada Life Group Insurance conducted a research study that found that not only are open offices detrimental to productivity, but they can also be damaging to employees’ overall well-being and health.

According to research results, workers in open-plan offices to 3.1 sick days in a year, compared to 1.8 sick days for people working from home. Additionally, employees working in open plan offices were nearly six times more likely than people working from home to believe their work environment caused stress.

Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation also studied the effects of open offices on employee health. These researchers found symptoms of stress, conflict and high blood pressure in 90% of the employees they surveyed who worked in open offices.

Giving your employees a private place to work can reduce stress and increase their overall well-being and health. Not only does this improve the quality of their lives, but it also increases your company’s productivity.

Open Office Plans Keep Your Employees Distracted

Corporate psychologist Stephanie Thompson has found that some employees are particularly sensitive to distractions, and open-office environments are extremely difficult for these workers. Senior engineers, people in financial services and bankers are among the employees who find open office plans especially challenging, especially when they’re working on complex tasks or analysis.

But you don’t have to be a senior engineer to be distracted by the actions and noises of all the people around you. And that’s why managers and employers ought to seriously consider finding solutions to the open office problems, such as the use of office partitions.

Portable Partitions

One of the simplest but most effective solutions to these problems is to install portable partitions in your office. With a variety of options and prices available, you’ll be able to find the best fit for your office. You can even have your employees help to design their own workstations using privacy screens, giving them control over their space and increasing their productivity.

To learn more about our partitions, or to speak to one of our design experts, get in touch with us today. We look forward to helping you to increase productivity, health and well-being in your office.