Open space work design began with the best intentions. The idea behind them was to get people sharing knowledge, conversing, and increasing the creativity pool thus creating a more productive work environment.
Without the barriers of cubicle walls or partitions between work-spaces employees could collaborate much more easily and ultimately would work harder. It is difficult to be a slacker when everything you do is on public display.
Open work spaces seemed like the ideal solution for a corporation that wanted to better monitor its employees and encourage teamwork. What actually happened is another story altogether.
The Need for Open Office Quiet Rooms
A study was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in December 2013 that found open-plan layouts were more disruptive than office-type layouts due to “uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy.”
The expectation of enhanced interaction unexpectedly increased the noise in the workplace leading to greater employee dissatisfaction. What the great thought leaders wanted was a big open space where everyone worked together to create big things. What they got was a big open space that felt like a company picnic in the park, people milling about making conversation and catching up on yesterday’s news.
Enclosed private offices clearly performed better than open-plan layouts in many areas. Employees value their privacy more than the atmosphere of open space working.
As with most things in life, open space offices have both advantages and disadvantages. The question is do the pros outweigh the cons? For example, open plan offices are more economical. You can pack more employees into more work space but in doing so you also increase the noise level which has been shown to reduce employee performance.