The ins and outs of open plan

The debate over open plan office layouts rages on.

For many organisations, the advantages of real-estate savings, increased collaboration and organisational flexibility seem overwhelmingly to the good.

To this, today’s Times adds research from the University of Arizona that suggests open plan is good for the participants’ health as a result of higher levels of activity and lower levels of stress.

On the other side of the argument, the Economist’s Bartleby column reported some possibly counter-intuitive findings: Open offices can lead to closed minds. A report published by the Royal Society – The impact of the “open” workspace on human collaboration – found that face to face interactions decreased by around 70% once open plan was introduced, as:

“transitions to open office architecture do not necessarily promote open interaction. Consistent with the fundamental human desire for privacy and prior evidence
that privacy may increase productivity, when office architecture makes everyone more observable or ‘transparent’, it can dampen F2F interaction, as employees find other strategies to preserve their privacy; for example, by choosing a different channel through which to communicate. Rather than have an F2F interaction in front of a large audience of peers, an employee might look around, see that a particular person is at his or her desk, and send an email.

 

Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash

 

Author: Andrew Munro

A writer, communicator and sovereign professional.

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