Open Offices: Not Right for All But May Be Right for You

For years, open offices have been promoted as a way to improve collaboration and productivity among the workforce. Yet a recently published report from Harvard researchers shows that the opposite may be happening.  The report reviewed the results of two empirical studies, and found that rather than increasing face-to-face interactions, open environments may actually be driving workers to conduct more interactions through email out of a desire for privacy and the need to look “busy.”  Their data showed:

  • Face-to-face interactions decreased by 73% in the first study and by 70% in the second study.
  • Use of email or instant messenger increased 67% in the first study and up to 50% in the second study.

Does this mean that open offices should never be designed again? Or that your open office is decreasing productivity and collaboration among your employees? Possibly, but it is important to remember that every organization is different and what works for one company, may not be right for your company.  Knowing your specific culture, employee preferences and habits, and operational needs and goals is crucial to the ultimate success of your workplace design.

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