Ahh, the open air. No claustrophobic cubicle. No sense of isolation with walls separating you from your surroundings. No jealousy about who gets the corner office.
…or so we all thought. Like many of the ideas of the 1950s, such as the Edsel, smoking in hospitals, and Smell-O-Vision, it turns out they weren’t so great after all. Open offices, it turns out, are more likely to hurt your productivity, rather than help it. Loud noises activate the stress hormone cortisone, distractions cause delays, and the close quarters even spread germs. Despite the fact that employees appear at first glance to be busier, they actually get less done; the supposed financial savings of shared resources and less space comes at the cost of lower job satisfaction–and with it higher turnover of skilled workers. Disaffected workers have been grumbling for some time about this problem, and new studies are confirming the perils of an open office plan.
Gallup recently released a report on the State of the Global Workplace, which found that only 11% of respondents felt engaged and inspired at work. Another study conducted by the global research firm IPSOS which surveyed more than 10,500 workers in Europe, North America and Asia confirmed that insufficient privacy in the workplace is a serious issue everywhere, and that satisfaction with the work environment was directly linked to engagement. Once again, only 11% of those surveyed said they were happy with their environment.
The reality is that no matter what the research says, giving every employee their own office isn’t a possibility for every company. Financial and space restraints are real. But a few simple measures can mitigate the worst of the open-plan problems. In this infographic, we look at the repercussions of the open-plan office design.
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The Pitfalls of Open-plan offices
Research has indicated that your office’s open-plan layout could be hurting your employees’ productivity, happiness and health. Open-plan offices have consistently linked with reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction, lower perceived privacy, more stress and less productivity.
- 95 percent of employees said that working privately was important to them.
- 89 percent of employees feel more productive when working alone
- 85 percent of employees are not happy with their working environment
- 80 percent of employees in the US work in open-plan settings.
- 63 percent of employees say that the number one distraction at work is loud colleagues.
…and the open-plan trend shows sign of smaller private space for employees – from 500 sq. ft. in 1970 to just 100 sq. ft. in 2017.
Open-plan office: health issues
Health-wise, open-plan office environments cause quick spread of germs and viruses, not mentioning the immunity deterioration due to stress.
According to a survey, working from home proves to be more productive and healthy for employees: Work-from-home employees score 7.7/10 for productivity and 8.1/10 for health, whereas open-plan employees score 6.5/10 for productivity and 6.1/10 for health.
The same survey also reveals that only 5 percent of home-based employees are stressed, compared to 28 percent of open-plan employees.
Interruptions are expensive!
- 28 percent of employees’ time is wasted on dealing with unnecessary interruptions, including the recovery time required for them to get back on track.
- On average, an open-office employee is interrupted once every 3 minutes.
- An open-office worker is interrupted 50 times a day, which 75 percent of them are non-work-related.
- 45 percent of employees don’t remember what was the last thing they do before getting interrupted.
- 25 percent forget to return to the task before getting interrupted.
- 17 percent of tasks are in jeopardy during distraction
- 13 percent didn’t notice the changes made after returning to the original task
All in all, the cost in dollar value exceeds $588 billion annually.
So, what’s the solution?
- Allow employees to work from home
- Create an ecosystem – create rooms for quite work/privacy on demand
- Allow employees to choose how and where they move and work in the office