The open office is one of the trademarks of contemporary business. Although intended to foster a more egalitarian atmosphere that would be conducive to creativity and productivity recent studies suggest it may have just the opposite effect. A recent article on the New Yorker website goes into current thinking about the open office, now that the bloom appears to be off the rose. The article cites a 2011 paper by organizational psychologist Matthew Davis who took a close look at more than 100 office environment studies. His conclusion:
… though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation.
According to a 2005 study also cited in the article some of the problems Davis encountered seem to come from a sense of hopelessness office workers feel when they lose the ability to control their environment in any meaningful way. In that study…
… researchers found that the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.
The article also cites a Danish study which concluded that workers in open office environments took 62 percent more sick leave than workers with individual offices.
The New Yorker article goes on to suggest that noise levels may be the single biggest factor negatively affecting worker performance in open offices. That theory is backed up by an article on the Washington Post website in which the article’s author, Lindsey Kaufman, records her nightmare experience as she was forced to transition from a traditional office to an open plan office. Kaufman cites yet another study, this one from 2013, wherein almost half the workers interviewed complained that a lack of sound privacy was a major problem.
So what does all this mean? Are we ready to do an about-face and begin calling in the drywall contractors? Probably not. Simply because from the business owner’s perspective there are enough things about the open office that do work: they’re more flexible should you have a workforce that fluctuates in number, they’re less expensive to set up and maintain and they’re better than cubicles: which is like saying they’re better than a root canal.
Moveable Walls Create Worker-Friendly Office Space
So, although it’s unlikely we’re on the cusp of returning to the fully segregated office the complaints of many who’ve been consigned to work in open offices need to be respected and the logical solution is moveable walls.
Moveable walls have many of the benefits of permanent walls with none of the drawbacks. They also take what little was good about the cubicle (the semblance of autonomy and a bit of noise control) and reintroduce those thing into the office environment. With glass wall partitions employees can enjoy the benefits of natural sunlight and not be overwhelmed by the cacophony of sound being emitted by a hundred other hard-working souls nearby. And if the company undergoes rapid flux in the size or composition of the workforce, moveable walls can easily adapt to any office configuration that may be needed.
Business owners looking for an innovative method for creating autonomous work areas need to consider the benefits provided by mobile walls. Not only will they allow your employees to refocus their energy on the task at hand they’ll also provide your business with a contemporary look and feel that is sure to lift morale and impress clients.
Want to Know More? Contact IMT Modular Walls Today
IMT Modular is a leading provider of demountable wall solutions in the Greater Toronto Area. We’ve helped scores of clients reimagine their office space and increase productivity with attractive, tech ready moveable walls. With open plan offices coming under increasing scrutiny for the negative effects they have on worker attitudes and even health it may be time to rethink and reorganize your open office using flexible, affordable, environmentally friendly moveable walls.