There is an increasing trend toward open office environments. The general thought is that this arrangement saves space and facilitates collaboration. Many business owners opt for an open environment in hopes that it will improve productivity by cutting down on shenanigans including, but not limited to, employees spending all day watching Netflix movies and checking their stock portfolios.
All of that makes sense, right? Except it’s not true. Sure, you might be able to cram a few more people into an open environment, but at what cost? Many recent studies point to open environments as contributing to unproductivity, and even harming the health of people who work in them.
In 2011, an organizational psychologist conducted a meta-analysis of studies that looked at the effect of various types of office environments. As reported in the New Yorker, the analysis found that “while open offices fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.”
In other words, the perceived positive effects of open offices are, in fact, artificial. When it comes to really getting the work done, closed offices matter.
The New Yorker puts it simply: “a sense of privacy boosts job performance.”
And job performance isn’t the only thing at stake. Another study found that “as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace.” And the increase was significant. “Workers in twoperson offices took an average of 50 percent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of 62 percent more.”
Better job performance with fewer sick days? Please excuse us while we shut the door to our offices…