We've all heard about a major shift in workplace environments throughout the corporate world. Businesses are knocking down cubicle walls and piling workers into small spaces together, creating a more efficient environment that encourages collaboration.
But before you buy into this trend, you should ask yourself if it's the right option for your business. New studies are revealing that the negative effects of an open office may counteract any benefits. Unfortunately, for many businesses, the information is coming too late. An estimated three quarters of American employees now work in open-plan offices, with their employees invested thousands of dollars in landscaping design and new furniture to make the change. Chances are, those businesses will be forced to maintain the current environment for at least several years to justify the expense.
But if your workplace is still clinging to the traditional high-walled cubicle design, here are three major reasons you should stay the course.
There's an old saying that goes, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." Open-plan offices are nothing new to the corporate world. In fact, cubicles were invented to directly address the productivity lags being experienced by forcing employees to work without privacy in an increasingly data-driven world. The year? 1967. Experts at the time noted that visual distractions had a real impact on workers' ability to concentrate. In response, designers put together an office environment full of movable walls and desks that could be changed as an office's needs changed.
As more reports of flu-related deaths pour in, it's hard to ignore the major pitfalls of having a large number of people working all day in an enclosed space. In an open-plan office, one worker with a cold can infect dozens of employees during the course of a workday, resulting in increased absences. Over time, these outages will have an impact on your business's bottom line.
Experts have noted several problems with the open-plan office that directly impact job performance, including a loss of privacy. Privacy improves job performance, increasing overall job satisfaction and therefore creating a boost in productivity. Studies have also found that the noise levels often found in today's open workspaces leads to a direct decrease in cognitive performance. Offering enclaves for sessions of dedicated work isn't a solution, since most workers are tied to the desks that hold their assigned desktop PCs.
For businesses considering making the move, there are numerous studies available that discuss the negatives of open-plan offices. The perceived positives, such as an increase in collaboration, have not been proven and the cost savings could be negated by the drop in performance seen in many offices making this change.