For over a generation, American businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and other institutions have committed themselves to the open office concept. Developed in the late 1940's, its inventors and advocates speculated that it would revolutionize intra-office cooperation.
Make the walls disappear, they reasoned, and employees would have more opportunity to communicate. This new environment was supposed to foster innovation and creativity, while boosting productivity.
While some narrow groups, such as young office workers and extroverts, did react as expected, the open office has proved a headache — in some cases, quite literally — for most who must work there.
Common Problems Encountered in the Open Office Environment
After the turn of the century, studies began to show alarmingly negative impacts both individually and collectively. In most cases, the open office failed to live up to expectations. Instead of boosting morale, production and other measurables, performance suffered.
The problems faced in open offices stem from two sources: visual and audial distractions. At best, distractions can wreck havoc on work that requires concentration.