One of the primary arguments behind open-plan works paces is that they contribute to interaction and collaboration.
It’s a nice idea: Everyone helps everyone else; employees feed off each other’s energy and get more done, all while sharing laughs and building supportive relationships.
Except that’s not really what happens. At least, not the part about getting more done. In 2013, the design firm Gensler conducted a U.S. Workplace Study, which concluded that 75% of workers are “struggling to work effectively” due to difficulty focusing.
And, truly, it seems that this idea of facilitating collaboration and interaction isn’t grounded in genuine need after all. Fewer than ten percent of people in any office arrangement cited “ease of interaction” as a problem, and —amazingly — people who worked in fully private offices “were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue.”
Maybe that’s because it’s awfully easy to pick up a phone, send an instant message, or stroll down to a colleague’s office — but it’s very difficult to drown out the constant barrage of noise and visual stimulation inherent in open offices.
And as for feeding off each other’s energy? That’s only a good thing if your workplace is exclusively home to positive energy. (Let’s be honest — there’s no place on earth where that’s true all the time.) German researchers found that observing a stressed-out colleague can trigger “empathetic stress” in you, even if all is copacetic in your world.
Who needs more stress? Not us. Three cheers for private offices.