Open office plans have grown in popularity in recent years with employers believing they help to foster a more collaborative workspace that’s preferable for the majority of workers. But new studies have cast doubt on those ideas, showing that the impact of employee well being and productivity isn’t as strong as first thought.
An article in National Real Estate Investor highlighted several studies that show how open office spaces actually tend to reduce face-to-face interactions among workers. They also have a negative impact on productivity and quality of work, cause more employees to wear noise-canceling earphones and higher levels of stress. In turn, this leads to increased sick days and higher employee turnover, the studies show.
For example, a recent CBRE report titled “Top 6 Challenges and Solutions for a New Office Fit Out”, shows that open offices often tend to have higher ambient noise levels. They also tend to have more vibrations from the slab within the building’s steel frame structure due to the absence of wall partitions, and there can be heating and cooling issues in tough climates.
“Anytime there’s only one type of office environment available, it can adversely affect workers,” said Chris Coldoff, principal and workplace leader at architecture firm Gensler. He said the most productive environments offer workers a variety of choices about where they can work.
Then again, it’s best to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of both office styles carefully.
Open offices also mean that companies can get away with less square footage per employee than in traditional office spaces. Another study reveals that the average amount of office space per employee has reduced by 8.3% between 2007 and 2017, to just 193.8 square feet. Some companies are taking advantage of this by using the additional space to offer various workplace options and shared amenities, such as health spas and fitness centers.