Open Office Plans Suck, Says Science

Open office plans are pretty normal, according to Office Space. They’re good for a company’s bottom line, given that more drones can be squeezed into a space, and they’re also good for the subsidies generated by cubicle farms, or something. Also, propionates of open offices like to say that there are communication benefits. In fact, former New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg famously ran his city hall according to the model.

However, a new study published in Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that these supposed communication benefits are nonsense, and that open office plans are terrible.

The study’s authors analyzed a survey of over 42,000 US workers in 303 office buildings. The survey, and industry standard item called the “Post-Occupancy Evaluation” asks workers to evaluate seven aspects of their office environment, including temperature, ease of interaction, and lighting. It also asks workers to rate their overall satisfaction with their work space. Two thirds of the respondents were in open-office plans, a quarter had private offices, and the remaining twelfth shared a single room with co-workers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, workers in private offices rated their experience the highest. However, they also had the highest rating for ease of interaction with co-workers. Not only did open-plan office workers rate their ease of interaction low (probably due to the fact that it’s hard to have a private conversation in an open office), they also disliked their offices’ ambient noise levels, privacy issues, or overall satisfaction with their workplace.

And managers wonder why working from home is so popular.


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