Open-Office Plans Distract, Demotivate, and Spread Illness

Numerous studies have determined that the open office, while creating a sense of camaraderie among employees, is harmful in nearly every other respect.

Open-Office Plans Distract, Demotivate, and Spread Illness

Open-office plans fail workers and businesses in nearly every respect: they remove privacy and individual control over the work environment while encouraging ineffective multitasking and spreading noise, distraction, and illness.


Despite the popularity of the open-office plan, and the feeling it gives upper management of "staying current with workplace trends," numerous studies have determined that the open office, while creating a sense of camaraderie among employees, is harmful in nearly every other respect.

2000: A Cornell University study finds that open offices allow noise to drift from one location to another, and that this noise substantially reduces cognitive performance. Excess noise impares simple arithmetic skills and workers' ability to recall information.

2005: A study of diverse businesses finds that open-office plans reduce worker satisfaction by removing elements of control from individual workers. When employees can no longer change the temperature or lighting, their motivation takes a hit. 

2011: Psychologist Matthew Davis examines more than one hundred studies of the office environment. He finds that compared to standard office plans, workers in open offices experience more uncontrolled interactions, i.e. interruptions, and lower levels of concentration.

Workplace entrepreneur Jason Friedman argues that the greatest threat to productivity is interruptions. And interruptions are readily facilitated by open-office plans in the name of creative collaboration. But don't believe the hype, says Friedman:

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