We need room to breathe: Open offices sour workers

Summary:Open office workers bemoan a lack of privacy and noise pollution as top reasons for worker dissatisfaction.

Open plan offices were meant to help workers connect and communicate better with their colleagues, but do they really improve productivity and satisfaction?

According to a new report, we may prefer our tiny cubicles after all.

Researchers Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear from the University of Sydney have compiled an interesting review of the thinking that goes behind the open office (more productive? happier staff? better communication?) and the reality -- a privacy trade-off which leaves employees unhappy about their lack of personal space, instead of the physical.

Based on the report, Harvard Business Review has compiled charts of the data, drawn from a survey database from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Below are the most common frustrations reported by workers in different environments.

Harvard Business Review

The most common problems with open offices were the lack of privacy, less space and poor temperature control. However, the most recorded beef with the layout is high noise levels. As the most despised annoyance in the workplace, hearing everyone else's conversations irritate 60 percent of cubicle workers and half of partitionless employees.

Research cited by the authors says that "the loss of productivity due to noise distraction ... was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices, and the tasks requiring complex verbal process were more likely to be disturbed than relatively simple or routine tasks."

Meanwhile, workers in enclosed spaces reported the least amount of frustration. Maybe, in the end, employees simply need their own space to get on with things.

Via: Fast Co.Exist

Image credit: Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation


Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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