Open-plan offices make employees miserable

22 Feb 2018 By PM Editorial

New research suggests they result in a more distracted and irritated workforce

Open-plan work spaces are often seen as the fashionable way to encourage workplace creativity, but new research suggests they actually result in a more distracted and irritated workforce than individual desks or pods. 

A survey of more than 300 office workers from Karlstad University’s Service Research Center found that the higher the number of co-workers sharing a workplace, the less satisfied they became. Workers in open-plan offices reported finding it increasingly difficult to have good dialogues with their colleagues, and their wellbeing was shown to decrease because of this. 

“The results show a negative relationship between the number of co-workers sharing an office and employees’ job satisfaction,” says lead researcher Dr Tobias Otterbring. 

“This association was mediated by ease of interaction with co-workers and subjective wellbeing, with employees working in small and medium-sized open-plan offices reporting lower levels of both aspects than employees who work either alone in cellular offices, or with up to two colleagues in shared offices.” 

Although many open-plan spaces are introduced as a means of cost-saving and this can be financially effective in the short term, it is rarely enough to offset the costs associated with decreased job satisfaction among employees, the study adds. 

“Decision-makers should consider the impact of a given office type on employees rather than focusing solely on cost-effective office layout, flexibility and productivity,” Otterbring says.  


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