Yet Another Reason Open Plan Offices Are Terrible
You already know you hate your open plan office for all the distractions it offers (or that deadly silence that kills any hope of a private phone call). But there may be an even more compelling reason to consider a design overhaul -- your open workplace could be making you sick.
Of course taking down cubicles doesn’t cause more germs to appear, but it does help them spread faster and further, according to a recent study that examined the relationship between workspace type and sick leave taken for 1,852 Swedish workers.
The conclusion? Eliminate private spaces and you can expect your team to take more sick days. Men, for some as yet unexplained reason, seem particularly prone to taking more sick leave if their offices lack private space. That means more people suffering during flu season, of course, but it also means lost productivity (and dollars) for the company.
The effect, the authors suggest, is largely down to the fact that open plan spaces prevent those who are already coming down with something from effectively isolating themselves from their still healthy colleagues. Though they also suggest that some of the difference could be explained by actually healthy workers faking more sicks days simply to avoid the stresses of their unpleasant office environments.
Either way, it’s not exactly a vote of confidence for America’s most popular office design.
Sadly, these results don’t seem to be dampening the enthusiasm for wide open workspaces in some quarters. "People hoping for their own office shouldn’t get their hopes up. The trend isn’t towards giving people individual spaces, but refining the open plan," Quartz’s Max Nisen reports.
"Our research has shown that it it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in open office work station or an office, people are more distracted by technology and all of the things going on in their work environment," Sonya Dufner, a workplace strategist at design firm Gensler told Nisen.
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.