The Many Downsides of the Open Office Concept
The open office concept was thought to be a great idea, originally conceived back in 1950’s Germany. When the walls come tumbling down, open offices will encourage a sense of camaraderie and enhance collaboration. It was to usher in a new era of exchanging ideas, especially in the technology realms, and enhance productivity. It is of little wonder that the modern proponents of open offices were situated in Silicon Valley.
Over the years, open office fever has caught up with numerous other industries. The proliferation is all but complete. 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have adopted the concept according to reports from the International Facility Management Association.
An increased body of scientific evidence indicates that Google and the rest of the copycats got it wrong with the adoption of the open plan office. It’s to the point where many companies are selling office phone booths to provide the privacy desperately desired by workers.
When the walls came down, so did the workers’ focus. Human beings by nature can’t multitask.
Studies have proven that even with the slightest distractions you are inclined to lose focus for upwards of a third of an hour. According to studies by the University of Sydney using data generated by the University of California at Berkeley, 25 to 30 percent of colleagues reported that distractions in the open office affected their concentration.
Contrary to popular opinion, the open office concept doesn’t increase productivity or enhance collaboration. The psychological implications of open office designs, as reported by a Exeter University study, indicate that workers’ productivity and well-being decreased by 15 and 32 percent respectively.
There is nothing kind to report on open plan offices in regards to your health. An Australian scientist from the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation reported that open offices translated into high-stress levels, high blood pressure and the possibility of worker conflicts.
The result of the aforementioned conditions is increased germ transmissions and low productivity occasioned by staff absenteeism.
Think about visual hacking as well as eavesdroppers listening to your non-disclosure agreement type conversations with clients.
For starters, you have divided attention. Who is watching and shouldn’t be? The end result is most probably a shift in focus and consequently lower productivity.
For the unpersuaded minds, entice your brain with ‘The Transparency Paradox’ study findings. In a nutshell, the study reports that even the slightest level of group privacy will significantly increase productivity.
With the extreme version of open plan office-hot-desking your brain retention and recall power is bound to suffer. Hot-desking is a phenomenon where workers shift their workstation and tools whenever and wherever they like.
According to environmental and design psychologist, Sally Augustin, workers tend to retain more information and will be more productive if they form a habit of retaining their daily work spot.
Read more: The Open Oﬃce Concept Isn’t Working
Superiors love the opportunity presented by open-plan offices to keep a close eye on their staff. They feel the need to cut out the habitual social media browsers and the clandestine youtube watching colleagues. Nevertheless, the trade-off outweighs the benefits.
The open office setup creates an extra burden that forces employees to give a pseudo-perception that they heavily engaged in work-related activities, but without necessarily being productive. This is a clear heuristic technique that the proponents of open space offices deployed to monitor colleagues output. Unfortunately, they got it all wrong.
We hear murmurs that it worked in the Silicon Valley. More so at Google. There are serious lessons to take home in relation to the open office concept. For starters, Google didn’t just cut and paste the open office concept in their work place. After carefully taking their workers needs into consideration, they optimized their workspace for them.
The rest of the copycats, unfortunately, lifted an office environment optimized for Google workers to their respective duty stations – an act many now consider highly regrettable.