open Plan Office

Why the Open Plan Office Doesn’t Boost Productivity

The open plan office is often embraced by managers because they believe it will improve collaboration, communication, and productivity. This type of architectural change to the everyday office includes removing the literal walls between employees and removing cubicles. Instead, employees are set up at long tables with a workspace in order for them to talk more freely about their projects, according to the publication Fast Company.

In addition, private offices are removed and managers are seated alongside their subordinates so that there is no longer a concept of “some people are better than others,” explains the news source. However, this type of open plan office concept has several significant myths surrounding it.

The Myths of the Open Plan Office Concept

It is believed that people will collaborate more and ideas will flow from one team to another. One myth says that there will be more energy among the staff and everyone will be more productive. Another myth leaders believe is that this open office concept will lead them to make better products or provide better services.

Essentially, the issue at hand is that workers themselves tend to dislike the open plan office concept. Such an environment tends to be more loud and distracting with no privacy guaranteed.

“The sensory overload that comes with open-office plans gets to a point where I can barely function,” one graphic designer told the news source. “I even had to quit a job once because of it.”

Studies and Surveys Show the Disadvantages of an Open Plan Office

Studies show that there are actually significant disadvantages to working in an open office environment. For example, researchers found that employees in such scenarios take almost 66% more sick leave and tend to find their workplace more stressful and less productive. The general happiness scores of such workers tends to be low.

The Harvard Business School even found that open offices tend to decrease human face-to-face interaction by 70 percent while raising emails and private messaging by up to 50 percent. As such, it is clear the employees are not collaborating more in a face-to-face manner when working in an open plan office.

One study called The Impact of the ‘Open’ Workspace on Human Collaboration published in the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society Publishing found that the amount of face-to-face interactions between workers decreased by about 70 percent in an open plan office environment. In addition, there was a rise in electronic interactions between employees in this type of workplace.

Essentially, this research study shows that humans tend to withdraw in a more open work environment and, instead, employees end up communicating through email and instant messaging. In this study, researchers focused on a renovated workspace where one entire floor had no boundaries and was completely open. Participants were asked to wear a sensor that recorded every interaction they had throughout the work day.

The data was taken for 15 work days before the space was renovated and 15 work days after the redesign of the office. The results show that the 52 participants in the study spent 72 percent less time interacting face-to-face after the renovation and sent 56 percent more emails to other participants. Some other results from this study include:

  • The employees received 20 percent more emails from other participants
  • The study subjects were CC’d on 41 percent more emails
  • Instant messaging activity grew by 67 percent
  • The number of words sent by instant message rose by 75 percent


It is clear that an open plan office does not lead to greater collaboration or productivity. However, the landscape of the workplace does have a significant impact on productivity and the success of a company. Below is a discussion around why the workplace matters for the success of your business.

Why the Workplace Landscape Matters for Productivity

Company leaders who are seeking greater success and real benefits for their organization tend to foster a work environment where employees can be happy and inspired in their projects, according to an article from Large corporations like Google and Apple tend to invest in creating a great office environment that their workers will love, which has helped boost their success.

Essentially, a fun and happy environment can lead to employees who are happier and more productive. Such productive workers will be more successful and perform better than before. In addition, happy employees tend to have a more positive attitude.

Reducing stress by creating the right work environment can also improve productivity in the workplace. Workers who are stressed out tend to be more distracted and less productive. In fact, the workplace culture can actually lead to significant stress that has brought illness and disease among employees including diabetes and cardiovascular or circulatory conditions. Reducing employees’ stress and worry by improving the office layout can be a real benefit for your company’s success.

Along with creating a better work space, managers and business leaders should avoid overworking their employees. Preventing the “hustle culture” from negatively impacting your workers can play a big role in improving their mental health and avoiding depression and anxiety.

The right work environment will also encourage risk taking. Running a business is not about playing it safe and managers will need to take some risks to reap in rewards. As such, happy employees are more likely to take calculated risks. In addition, innovation and creativity is more likely to stem from a positive and happy work environment.

What is the best setup to organize an office and boost productivity? While an open plan office may not have the right structure for boosting success at your company, there are some office landscapes that can help improve results for your business.

>> Recommended reading: Absenteeism at Work: The Subtle But Significant Workplace Wrecker

The Best Landscapes for Organizing Your Office

Since the open office landscape has caused significant problems for workers in terms of visual and audio distractions, businesses are now attempting to create office spaces where workers can focus more without being interrupted, according to The Washington Post.

One of the best landscapes may provide both an open concept as well as more private areas where workspaces include a privacy wall. Even when working on group projects, there is a certain amount of time that is required for individual work. As such, including private areas for employees can make a big impact on their productivity.

Due to the mobility of today’s technology and the ability to work remotely, the office of the future will likely incorporate a mix of designs. The best landscape for offices will likely include some private space and meeting rooms in the future. In addition, there will likely be less space for individual desks.

Janet Pogue McLaurin, a principal at architecture and design firm Gensler, explained to the news source that surveys find workers are only sitting at their desk about 40 percent of the time today.

As such, more companies are creating mixed and shared spaces such as rooms where only two people can meet or meeting rooms for up to four workers. Additionally, businesses embrace meeting rooms for teams of five to eight individuals and large community spaces including lounges or commons.

It is also important to realize what type of occupations require a certain type of work environment. For example, accounting or writing departments will need more quiet spaces with little distractions. Sales, operations, and human resources, on the other hand, will need more interactive and collaborative environments.

“It used to be that we thought about space as overhead, and it was all around how do we make it efficient,” McLaurin stated. “Now it’s shifted to, people can work anywhere, so how can we design workspace where people want to be, rather than where they have to be. And that is driving new ways to think about space.”

With the mix of office space designs and the many areas where employees can work remotely, it is vital for managers to consider investing in project management software products so that all workers are connected virtually.

How Project Management Software Helps Teams Organize Assignments

Project management software products like software can help organize your assignments regardless of where your team members are located. Whether someone is working from home or another team member is located on the other side of the company building, utilizing project management software will help keep everyone connected. software will help organize assignments by allowing managers to quickly delegate projects and provide comment sections for communicating about newly uploaded files. The project management software also provides data analysis tools for determining how productive employees are and whether their performance has improved.

To learn whether software is the right tool for your company, click here for a free trial.



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