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Cube Farms Are Unhealthy

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An open-plan office might save on construction costs, but yet another study has demonstrated that cubicles lead to reduced productivity and increased stress.

Researchers quoted in news.com.au explained their findings:

“The evidence we found was absolutely shocking,” researcher Dr. Vinesh Oommen from the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said.

“In 90 percent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.”

“The high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity.” 

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© Flickr user babak_bagheri

Stories that discredit cube farms are nothing new. Fast Company covered the topic September 2008, Time magazine discussed their inefficiencies at the turn of the millenium, Forbes the year before and the New York Times back in 1993. Fortune even reported how the inventor of the cubicle, Robert Propst, lamented his creation before his death in 2000. If so-called “open-plan” offices are universally despised, why do they persist?

Here’s an open secret: Most organizations are better at measuring activity than progress. The cube farm lets a manager gauge movement by glancing out across a field of workers or listen to the cacophony of ringing phones and impromptu meetings. This survey of the landscape does not tell you how much work is getting done, but it certainly proves employees are at their desks and doing something.

The age of measuring work by watching for movement must end. Activity does not equal progress. Engaged employees do not need to be watched. Instead: as genuine, enthusiastic stakeholders they are more likely to make progress when they can concentrate on work and be rewarded for producing real results.

Times are changing. If you are ready to begin the conversation about changing the dynamics of your workplace, talk with the business consultants at AccelaWork. We love to help organizations transform workflow and rekindle the passion of their people.

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