Why open plan offices are a disaster for your company

Before COVID-19, open plan offices were on the rise. For example, Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park had the “largest open floor plan in the world.”

The obsession with open office spaces, which probably peaked about a decade ago, was based on what I’ve termed “collaboration bias” – the underexposed assumption that ad-hoc social encounters are more valuable for business, creativity and productivity than continuous “deep”. work.”

But a series of recent studies shed new light on the misguided disaster that is the open plan office space and the importance of private offices, no matter where they are.

A research report called “Remote and Hybrid Working” from the Myers-Briggs Company found that employees who sit in open-plan offices are the least happy, those with a private office the most. (The report also found that back-to-office edicts and policies negatively affect employees, and that a mismatch between policies and desired workplace leads to higher employee turnover.)

Meanwhile, a recent survey from the company Robert Half found that more than a third of respondents (35%) said they get more done at home (where they can work without interruption from colleagues). But nearly half (43%) of office workers say they perform best in a private office.

The disdain for open-plan offices is now greater than before the pandemic, according to a study by Framery, which makes soundproof cubicles for offices. About 41% say their ability to concentrate in an office with an open floor plan has deteriorated significantly after the pandemic.

It turns out that homeworkers (WFH) and office workers with a private office have three things in common:

  1. They have private offices.
  2. They are happier.
  3. They get more done.

All this new data makes me wonder: To what extent is the employee’s desire to work from home ultimately a desire to have a private office or at least a space where interruptions from co-workers can be monitored?

After all, working from home is not for everyone.

While it objectively saves time, increases flexibility, increases autonomy, saves money, and provides other measurable benefits, it also reduces social contact with employees, limits the resources available for work, and reduces the availability of technical support.

You can measure the measurable values, but the reality is that psychological rules apply to the appeal of remote work (or lack thereof).

Some people love it. Some hate it. Many are somewhere in between.

In the midst of the Great Layoff, with companies struggling to hire and fill the IT skills gap — and working hard to retain employees — it seems to me that dismantling open-plan offices and building more private office space is an overlook. tactics that companies can use to attract and retain their best employees.

Of course, different companies have different constraints (budgetary and otherwise), as well as different missions, approaches to work and management, and other factors.

So there is no one-size-fits-all answer here.

But it seems the best policy for employee satisfaction and productivity is pretty simple: Anyone who can work remotely can choose where and when they work: full-time, part-time, or never in the office.

But those who choose to work in an office can expect their own private office.

Not only will that approach make employees happier and more productive, but it will likely increase the number of employees who choose to work in the office.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.