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Open Plan Offices Hurt Employee Productivity, Satisfaction and Health

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Increasing employee productivity by trying to take advantage of the “open plan office?” Turns out that these designs often backfire, making employees unhappy and more likely to get sick.

The entire article is worth a read, but here are a couple of choice quotes:

According to the International Facility Management Association, 70% of American employees work in open-plan office

That number reminds us of title of a Forbes editorial, 70% Of Your Employees Hate Their Jobs. Coincidence?

Employee Productivity and the Open Plan Office

© Flickr user mrdorkesqe

Here’s another quote from Open-plan offices make employees less productive, less happy, and more likely to get sick:

A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that open office setups reported 62% more sick days on average than one-occupant layouts. It was the first national population study conducted in Denmark to find such a linkage. One suggested explanation, unsurprisingly, was that viruses and bacteria spread more easily in open offices. Another was that open offices are more stressful to work in because of the lack of privacy, and that the stress makes sickness more likely.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of our blog, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear this. We reported years and years ago about how cubicle farms are unhealthy. Even the inventor of the cube recanted, calling his creation a “monolithic insanity.”

But that’s not all! It turns out that there are studies reporting all kinds of other problems with open plan offices, including:

  • Open plan offices are noisy, and noise leads to reduced employee productivity and employee satisfaction
  • Open plan offices are unpopular, because people are interested in privacy and (shocker) respect
  • Open plan offices aren’t helped by ergonomic furniture, because the design changes needed to save space are so dramatic that the furniture is no longer intuitive.

If open-plan offices are so terrible, what’s the answer? Here it is in picture form:

Employee Productivity and Working Anywhere

© Flickr user gailf548

Or to put in words:

Work is not place you go, it’s a thing you do.

Of course, we need to provide employees with the necessary tools to do their jobs. And for some kinds of work, having a place to go at times to collaborate or access shared resources.

But much of the time, it doesn’t. And the idea that we should work in big open plan offices is huge part of the problem.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


This is a headline for an anti-announcement.
@JATompkins I love the Monon. But also: a reminder that *sometimes* the things that are popular get implemented and… - 9 hours ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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