July 1, 2016

Open Offices, Truth in the Trend

Open Offices are all the rage these days. But, there’s a growing body of evidence that open offices are more harmful than we realize. Below are a few quotes from a collection of articles about open offices.

The Open-Office Trap
By Maria Konnikova
JANUARY 7, 2014
“The open office was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the nineteen-fifties, to facilitate communication and idea flow. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve.”
“Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.”
The Problem With Open Offices, And A Solution By Susan Cain And Steelcase
By Christina Park
NOV 3, 2014
“70% of American employees now work in open offices, according to the International Management Facility Association. But despite the popularity of open offices, they have been associated with higher levels of employee dissatisfaction, stress, and illness.” (Three independent studies support this).
“Introverts may find open offices particularly challenging. Typically, introverts are highly attuned to their surroundings. They tend to crave access to private spaces in which they can escape the gaze of others and feel psychologically safe, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.
Lindsey Kaufman
December 30, 2014
“These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity. A 2013 study found that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance.”
Offices For All! Why Open-Office Layouts Are Bad For Employees, Bosses, And Productivity
Jason Feifer
“We’ve been told that our small squat in the vast openness of our open-office layouts, with all its crosstalk and lack of privacy, is actually good for us. It boosts productivity. It leads to a happy utopia of shared ideas and mutual goals. These are the words of imperceptive employers and misguided researchers. The open-office movement is like some gigantic experiment in willful delusion. It’s like something dreamed up in Congress. Maybe we can spend less on space, the logic seems to go, and convince employees that it’s helping them. And for a while, the business press (including, let’s be honest, some of the writing in this very publication) took it seriously. “Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it,”
“Employees in cubicles receive 29% more interruptions than those in private offices, finds research from the University of California, Irvine. And employees who are interrupted frequently report 9% higher rates of exhaustion.”
“”There’s some evidence that removing physical barriers and bringing people closer to one another does promote casual interactions,” explains a Harvard Business Review piece that nicely summarized the research on this subject. “But there’s a roughly equal amount of evidence that because open spaces reduce privacy, they don’t foster informal exchanges and may actually inhibit them. Some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.””
9 Reasons That Open-Space Offices Are Insanely Stupid
1. They decrease productivity.
2. They make employees miserable.
3. They create time-consuming distractions.
4. They make employees sick.
5. They result in more sick days.
6. They communicate a lack of trust.
7. They create vast political turmoil.
8. They blunt your highly-paid brainpower.
9. They cost MORE than private offices. (due to net losses in productivity and quality)


Michael Allen Williamson is an author and maker writing at Movers & Makers. He is our guest today to share some of his insights. If you can find out more at and subscribe to their podcast, too.

Leave a Reply