Anthony Haynes writes: A perennial issue in human resource management is office layout and design. In recent years, open plan has been gaining ground as management’s preferred layout. Its perceived advantages include:
- cost savings (principally, reducing square footage per employee);
- ease of monitoring (or perhaps ‘surveillance’);
- greater communication between staff.
However, recent research published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) challenges some of these perceptions. The research by Jungsoo Kim, and Richard de Dear has been helpfully summarised in the BPS’s research digest — the link is as follows: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-supposed-benefits-of-open-plan.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter.
Kim and Dear found that open plan office produce a number of disadvantages. In particular, employees suffer from a lack of ‘sound privacy’. Surprisingly, this is actually worse in an open plan office that has partitions — evidently, partitions make ambient noise more difficult to predict and hence more distracting.
They also cite research that open plan layouts can reduce communication, because of the lack of privacy. According to Kim and Dear, there is a trend “for workers in private offices to be more satisfied with ease of interaction than open-plan workers’.
Their conclusion is arresting and controversial: “considering previous researchers’ finding that satisfaction with workspace environment is closely related to perceived productivity, job satisfaction and organisational outcomes, the open-plan proponents’ argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature.”
We’d welcome views from office staff: open plan, good or bad?
The reference for the full research paper is here: Jungsoo Kim & Richard de Dear(2013), ‘Workspace satisfaction: The privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices’ Journal of Environmental Psychology DOI:10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.06.007.