Rise of the open office
Although many people believe the open office concept comes from trendy tech startups in Silicon Valley, the idea was actually born in Germany in the 50s to promote the flow of ideas. It has taken many decades, but the open office layout has become increasingly popular, but perhaps not for the trendy reasons you might think.
In fact, the average amount of space per employee has been slashed nearly in half since 1985 from 400 sf to 250 sf in 2011. Within the next decade, that size is expected to fall to 150 sf. Many companies are participating in the open office concept to save money, others to facilitate communication, and push equality in the workplace.
Some assert that while the open office concept promotes innovation, it may decrease productivity, satisfaction, and creative thinking. Clearly, there is room for improvement, as closed offices means closed communications.
Research reveals that 60 percent of offices are now an open floor plan, with 38 percent making the change in the last five years – that’s quite an acceleration. Most respondents said it improved their morale, and the majority say it has improved team interaction.
One in four indicated they have to resort to making private calls in places like stairwells, but 34 percent state that there are designated areas to take care of private calls. Nearly half say they can work in peace and take care of private calls just fine in an open office.
On the flip side…
On the flip side, one study revealed that people sharing an office or using an open office plan had significantly more sick days. In one small and perhaps not so scientific study, open office noise distraction combined with moderately warm air temperature increased fatigue and negatively affected work performance. That seems like a stretch to us, but it is being used to demonstrate open offices aren’t all sunshine and roses.