While many companies are eliminating cube walls in an attempt to foster more collaboration between employees, a recent study shows this could be achieving the opposite effect.
Harvard University found that face-to-face communication between employees decreased by 70% after office floorplans were opened up. The study discovered workers withdrew from each other socially, preferring to communicate via email or instant messages.
Other employees reported feeling less creative, citing the need for quiet, secluded spaces to work most efficiently.
Other harmful effects
Not only can open offices hurt collaboration and productivity, but they can actually do damage to employees’ physical and mental health.
Business writer Geoffrey James shared on Inc.com some more unintended side effects of open office spaces that can cause problems for employees.
- Managers are inescapable. A recent poll by Gallup shows that bad bosses are the top reason workers leave companies. For those who stick around, a bad boss can cause stress or even depression. And in an open office, managers are unavoidable, which can make the stress even worse. It’s important for employees to have a private space they can go to decompress.
- Sickness spreads more easily. Germy coughs and sneezes can travel up to 26 feet, and particles can stay in the air for ten minutes. When there are no cubicles or walls acting as barriers, the whole office can quickly get contaminated.
- Introverts will be uncomfortable. Roughly 50% of the population consider themselves to be more introverted than extroverted. This means the constant presence of other people can cause a lot of employees to feel anxious and uncomfortable. For some workers, forced interaction throughout the entire day can be too much to handle.
- It’s impossible to fully focus. When people around us are saying and doing things, our brains unconsciously pay attention to them. This makes it impossible for employees to work without any distractions in an open office. Constant multitasking can do major damage to workers’ productivity.