The Pitfalls of Open Office Plans (Infographic)

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.

Open-plan office layout

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.