Open Offices Reduce Productivity and Increase Stress

It seems like there’s finally some scientific proof to back up what I’ve been saying for a while now: offices, especially “modern,” open office plans actually make you sick.

You can read more about this in a news.com.au article covering a recent Australian study, but here’s the gist:

“In 90 per cent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.

“The high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity.”

A lot of people tell me that they love working in an open office, that it leads to better communication, sharing of ideas, and an increased flow of creativity.

My own experience is in line with this study. The open offices I’ve worked in—and some were otherwise great places to work—usually lead to distraction, decreased productivity, and low morale in myself and the people I’ve worked with.

For the record, I think offices when used as places to meet, to share ideas, or to bust out code in a 2-week sprint are great. But as an everyday environment, open offices come at a price.

It’ll be interesting to see if more businesses foster the creation of personal Creativity Zones in order to push through the recession and cut costs.

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