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Researchers Close the Book on Open Offices

A growing body of scientific research shows that open office plans harm wellbeing and job performance.
Shannon Clark / Flickr

Though designing open offices has become a common space planning practice in recent decades, the concept has a longer history, explains Maria Konnikova. "The open office was originally conceived [PDF] by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the nineteen-fifties, to facilitate communication and idea flow."

"But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve," she notes. Numerous studies have exposed the negative impacts on stress levels, satisfaction, productivity, and physical health caused by such environments.

Unfortunately, the adverse effects aren't just limited to older workers, who may have been forced to vacate a coveted corner office. "Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run," writes Konnikova.

Full Story: THE OPEN-OFFICE TRAP

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