The Truth About Open Office Floor Plans

You might think the perfect way to entice your team to be more collaborative is to remove cubicles and provide a trendy open floor plan environment. Creating a more accessible and communicative platform to spark innovation through connectivity would theoretically lead the business to success.

Traditionally, office spaces have consisted of little neighborhoods of personal cubicles since their invention in the 1960s. One of the more recent reinventions of the workplace has been the open office floor plan. These are wide open spaces filled with long community tables, typically with a standing desk section, where everyone can see and hear each other.

With approximately 70% of organizations currently incorporating the open office floor plan into their workplaces with 40% dedicated to communal use, you will want to pause before you jump in line. We urge you to consider the increasing amount of statistics that point out the truly toxic downsides of this widely-incorporated trend.

Read further for some shocking discoveries on open floor plans:

Productivity Setbacks and Decreasing face-to-face Interactions!

Research from Matthew Davis, Leeds University Organizational and Environmental Psychology expert, has revealed open office environments can impair workers’ attention span, productivity, creative thinking, and overall satisfaction. New research largely dispels the belief that open office floor plans are guaranteed to deliver on their enticing ideals of maximum collaboration and productivity in a laid back environment.

Workforce surveys from Gensler have continuously tracked the effects of open office floor plans. With recent statistics showing workers spending 54% of their time on work requiring individual focus, it’s no surprise the number of employees unable to concentrate at their desks has dramatically increased. Privacy and total lack of anonymity has been reported as a consistent issue. Even Harvard’s confidential Internal Research uncovered that productivity declined after eliminating spatial boundaries, stating that “Rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.” Researchers who conducted this study, Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, reported face-to-face interactions between coworkers dropped by a shocking 70% with email and instant messaging(IM) use increasing up to 50%. Their open office layout did not prompt face-to-face collaboration, but in fact produced quite the opposite result, reducing human interaction on average from 5.8 hours a day down to 1.7 hours a day.

Whether you currently have individual cubicles or an open office floor plan, take into consideration the amount of time your employees interact with each other and the activities you arrange for true face-to-face time. Conduct a survey within your office to see what your employees prefer and how they feel they work best to accomplish daily goals. The studies show both employers and workers are learning that they do need daily access to confidential space in order to concentrate. So, rather than grabbing some headphones and hoping for the best, it’s time to find out exactly what your employees need so you can provide the best possible environment to nurture positive wellbeing and productivity.