The Link Between Open Offices and Depression Explained

Many employers underestimate the effect that the workplace and office layout can have on their employees' mental health. 

Studies show that the average person spends approximately 33 percent of their waking hours at work, so it should come as no surprise that their work environment can profoundly shift their mood and well-being.

The open office layout is a favorite for modern workplaces as open offices are believed to create more space, ease communication, and promote teamwork among employees. Unfortunately, there are several downsides to the layout that can result in an increased rate of both anxiety and depression among workers. 

Given recent findings that a great office layout can improve an employee's mood by 33 percent, employers should make bigger investments in their floor plans. There are ways of altering an open office layout to have it accommodate employees better, but it's important first to understand why the open layout can be so problematic. 

How a Lack of Privacy Affects Mental Health

A major downside of an open office layout is the lack of privacy, which can deeply impact the mental health of your employees. Although a hugely positive and supportive work culture may fare well in an open office, this isn’t a realistic expectation for the majority of workplaces. In fact, open offices often result in a high employee turnover rate.

A major reason for this is that an open layout magnifies tiny conflicts and concerns among staff, making it difficult to feel comfortable or to focus on tasks. When workers have interpersonal conflict and are not able to have space from each other, that leads to a far less positive and productive space. Examples of these potential issues include:

  • Rumors and gossiping
  • Less substantive, private conversations
  • Too much advice/input from others
  • Air conditioning/heater arguments
  • Debates over music
  • Conflict over office sound level

These issues may seem small on their own, but over time they can diminish morale and keep employees from wanting to work as a team. The cost of having a more hostile or negative work environment is that employees begin feeling more insecure about their performance and are more likely to dread coming to work throughout the week.

Unfortunately, an open office can also end up leading to self-isolation. Despite the commonly held belief that an open office will encourage social interaction among coworkers, it sometimes has the opposite effect. Due to the high volume and constant distractions that come with an open office, this layout often results in a rise in digital communication vs face-to-face conversations.

The Mental and Physical Toll

The mental and physical toll of a poor work environment can be substantial. That's why it's important to choose the correct office layout for you and your team, as the wrong choice can result in an unnecessary amount of stress. 

Stress in itself is more damaging to the body than you might think. There has been a considerable amount of research that reveals the many ways that high levels of stress can affect the mind and body. It should also be mentioned that open office layouts result in more sick days, as employees are in closer physical contact with each other.

While physical effects such as joint pain, heart disease, headaches, and breathing problems are more commonly cited, stress is also detrimental to one's long-term mental health. Higher levels of stress are frequently linked to a greater likelihood of developing anxiety and depression. Though workplaces across the country contribute to the unfortunate mental health crisis in America, employers are fully capable of turning it around without breaking the bank. 

There’s a way to gain all the benefits of an open office without sacrificing the mental health and well-being of your employees. There are far more office layouts available to you than just open or closed. Incorporating some different open office furniture ideas and moving around some desks could be the difference between a stressed-out staff and a well-oiled machine.

Agile Offices May Help Counter Some of the Open Office Depression

Agile office floor plans offer a functional alternative to the open office free for all. This layout puts flexibility and agility on the forefront, adapting to meet the needs of its individual employees rather than the other way around. Newer businesses, in particular, are benefiting considerably from agile offices, as they're more suitable for partially remote employees and other new ways of working.

With an agile office layout, employees will have the ability to work in small groups or getaway to have time for themselves to focus. Unpredictable situations and dilemmas come up for every office staff, and with an agile layout, they'll be able to access the work environment they need to respond to new challenges. 

The best way to incorporate an agile office floor plan is to get lots of feedback from employees surrounding the current layout and their ideal office layout. Ask them regularly about their needs, preferences, pet peeves, and soon you can, develop a functional space that offers them the amenities and private space they need to succeed.

Office Neighborhoods

Office neighborhoods are similar to agile offices, although they're more permanent. They are also ideal for a larger staff size. Different departments of your business will have different needs, and the one-size-fits-all approach of an open office may be negatively affecting the mood and productivity of some staff. 

With an office neighborhood, different floors or sections of the workplace are given different layouts to accommodate the workers in that area. However, workers in an office neighborhood still have the flexibility to move around and work in different environments that they feel better suit the work they need to do. This can include everything from a group project to a time-sensitive solo assignment. 

Employers can create an office neighborhood by incorporating project rooms, recharge rooms, couches, partitions, and other pieces of furniture that give employees multiple options for how to get their work done. This will allow employees to not only choose the layout that best accommodates their work, but also their mood. Giving them this freedom will make for a more positive, productive, and satisfying work environment.

Zenbooths Can Help Fight Open Office Stress

The anxiety, depression, and chronic stress that can stem from an open office often come from the lack of privacy and the never-ending distractions. Zenbooth's Single, Duo, and Quad units are fantastic solutions to this common problem. 

This versatile product can have multiple uses in your office, including being a:

  • Phone Booth: Insecurity among workers is a prominent issue for those in open layouts. Employees sometimes feel limited in what they can say on the phone when surrounded by coworkers, but a sound-proof phone booth will allow them to conduct their calls in peace. Having a phone booth available also makes the volume in the office a less pressing issue.
  • Break Room: The effective sound-proof design of the Zenbooth makes it the ideal break room. Employees can get away from the noisiness of the office and unwind in a room with high-quality ventilation and relaxing, dimmable LED lights. 
  • Recharge Room: Sometimes employees need something more private than a break room. Recharge rooms give workers the space they need to meditate, nap, and de-stress before going back to work. 
  • Meeting Room: People trying to work in small groups in an open office may find it difficult to focus given the number of distractions. A Zenbooth Quad unit can comfortably fit four to six workers, giving them a quiet, comfortable environment to get their work done.
  • Solo Work Space: The Zenbooth Single unit is perfect for both private phone calls and for solo workers who need to focus on a time-sensitive assignment. They're even outfitted with multiple outlets to ensure that workers never have to run back into the office to charge up. 

Being able to offer this variety of options to your employees will have an incredibly positive effect on their mental health, and by extension, their productivity. Zenbooth units can be easily incorporated into any office layout and are regularly used to enhance agile offices, office neighborhoods, and more. 

With their 3.5 inch thick walls, echo absorbing panels, and twin high-powered ventilation system, workers will be comfortable and content using them throughout the workweek. These durable, eco-conscious units can be assembled within an afternoon, allowing you the opportunity to transform your office in a way that's affordable and doesn't require any construction costs.

Take advantage of our free shipping and free 30-day return period to see how the Zenbooth empowers your team. If you'd like to place an order or have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us through our website. 

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