Office trends come and go, with some businesses eagerly jumping on the bandwagon. One such trend is the concept of open-plan office spaces.
A report from the International Facility Management Association revealed that 70 percent of offices use an open floor plan.
Initially intended as a cost-cutting measure for reducing the square footage of office space, the open design was believed to encourage collaboration and communication among teammates. In reality, the open space concept reduced worker productivity. It has ultimately led to businesses devising new ways to make the open office more private.
Open Office Spaces by the Numbers
A 2018 Harvard study showed open office spaces reduced communication among coworkers. Another report found that open office environments produced a negative effect on employees, including decreased attention span and productivity. The same report found elevated stress levels among employees subjected to such workspaces.
In addition to feeling stressed and distracted, some expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs because of the open layout. Being forced to work in an environment that was not conducive to encouraging productivity led those same employees to find it necessary to search for other employment.
Some workers were so desperate for a break from the open-office concept that they expressed the willingness to give up other amenities. Here's a quick look:
- Thirteen percent agreed to give up end-of-the-year bonuses.
- Thirteen percent agreed to give up vacation days.
- Sixteen percent offered to trade their “summer Fridays.”
- Seventeen percent agreed to give up access to windows and natural light.
- Twenty-seven percent agreed to trade in the office coffee machine.
Some workers wanted quiet in their work environments so much that they offered to give up the annual office holiday party in exchange for access to more privacy. Others said they would willingly agree to a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for more flexibility in their office environment.
The Specific Drawbacks of Open Offices You Need to Improve
Focusing without the added interruptions that plague open office spaces is a top priority for many workers. There is a disconnect, however, between how workers view the office environment and how it is viewed by their bosses. Nearly two-thirds of executives think their employees already are equipped with the right tools to get their jobs done. Fewer than half of employees agree.
Any benefits, such as easy collaboration, are overshadowed by the numerous disadvantages of open offices.
1. Excessive noise
It is a simple fact: the more people who are in a shared environment, the louder that space becomes. It can be difficult to focus on your work and to sound professional on calls with clients when there are overwhelming levels of background noise.
2. Inability to focus
Visual and auditory noise can reduce the ability to focus and stay on task. Meaningless background noise is sometimes less distracting than snippets of multiple conversations happening around you. Workers may find themselves drawn into various conversations occurring nearby instead of being able to concentrate on their tasks.
3. Lack of security and privacy
Open office designs lend themselves to hosting a constant stream of colleagues, suppliers and customers. With so many people having easy access to your workspace, it can breed an environment of distrust.
4. Reduced air quality
All it takes is for one person in the office to get sick to potentially infect the entire staff. Open spaces circulate the same air, therefore circulating the same germs. One staff member who is ill has the potential to take out the entire office. A Danish study concluded that shared office spaces with more than six people are likely to cause a 62-percent increase in the number of sick days among staff members each year.
5. Personality clashes
Every office has at least one staff member who is either deliberately or unwittingly annoying to those around them. It could be their constant need to chitchat with their coworkers or the smelly tuna sandwich they eat at their desks every day. Whatever the reason, personality clashes are more likely to occur and cause distraction in an open office.
Here's How Companies Improve Open Office Space
It is unrealistic to expect companies that invested tidy sums into their current design to go back to a cubicle or private office setup. They either may not have the funds or the location available to make the change.
Fortunately, there are viable options to improve your workplace. They provide similar opportunities for communication and collaboration without the added distractions.
Activity-based working (ABW) environments provide the best of both worlds through a combination of open and task-oriented spaces. ABWs offer more privacy and flexibility to workers when required to accomplish a specific job.
This kind of office setup drastically reduces the overhead associated with wasted office space while still giving staff the options to adjust their work area as needed.
Fox Business News touts the benefits of office booths and their ability to cut workplace sounds in half. Among other benefits, these booths increase productivity, help workers stay on task and reduce the stress associated with loud office environments.
The physical design of office space is directly linked to the mental health and well-being of workers. It is to the benefit of employers to find cost-effective ways to provide work environments that foster productivity and reduce stress.
How Will You Improve Your Open Office Space?
Are you ready to bring more zen to your current office design? Tired of the noise and confusion hindering productivity and increasing stress levels?
Contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp us @ +60 12-669 6855 (Nicholas)