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Open-Plan Offices Detrimental To Worker Productivity, Study Finds

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Turns out it has little to do with whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, open-plan office spaces just aren’t good for getting work done.

Offices that lump employees together in large spaces, called open-plan offices, have detrimental effects on workplace productivity despite previous claims that such configurations promote communication and boost morale, a new study by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear of the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture has found. Based on a survey of more than 42,000 United States office workers, the researchers found that workers who had private offices were far more satisfied than those in an open-plan office.

The main problems for open-plan workers were the small amount of space as well as what the researchers called “sound privacy,” Management-Issues.com points out. Employers saving money by putting workers together may have argued that ease of communication made up for the size of the working space. This was not the case, however, according to the survey.

"Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants' overall work environmental satisfaction," the researchers wrote. “The open-plan proponents' argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature."

This isn’t the first study to argue against open-plan office spaces, however. A 2009 review article found that 90 percent of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as high stress and high blood pressure, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, a 1982 study cited by the British Psychological Society Research Digest found that open-plan offices have also been found to discourage communication among employees due to lack of privacy.

(Hat tip: The Daily Mail)

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