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Workers in Open Offices Are Less Able to Focus and Take More Sick Days



(p. R7) Noisy, open-floor plans have become a staple of office life. But after years of employee complaints, companies are trying to quiet the backlash.

Many studies show how open-plan office spaces can have negative effects on employees and productivity. As a result, companies are adding soundproof rooms, creating quiet zones and rearranging floor plans to appeal to employees eager to escape disruptions at their desk.

Companies are "not providing sufficient variety in spaces," says David Lehrer, a researcher at the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Lehrer studies the impact of office designs on employees, and lack of "speech privacy" is currently a significant problem, he says. Employees in open-plan offices are less likely to be satisfied with their offices than employees in a traditional office layout, Mr. Lehrer adds.


. . .


Companies with open offices, . . . , soon encountered the downsides. For one thing, workers took increased sick days--a 2014 Swedish study of more than 1,800 workers found open-plan workers were twice as likely to take sick days as workers in traditional offices. The reason, the researchers hypothesized: the spread of germs and increased environmental stress of working in an open space. Workers also complained of an inability to focus and were generally less content with their work environment, the study said.

Now, companies are again "realizing people actually have to be productive," says Ned Fennie, partner at San Francisco-based architecture firm Fennie + Mehl.



For the full story, see:

ALINA DIZIK. "Open Offices Lose Some of Their Openness; Companies look for ways to add privacy and quiet areas without reverting to the traditional design." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Oct. 3, 2016): R7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 2, 2016, and has the title "Open Offices Are Losing Some of Their Openness; Companies look for ways to add privacy and quiet areas without reverting to the traditional office design.")


The 2014 Swedish study mentioned above, is:

Bodin Danielsson, Christina, Holendro Singh Chungkham, Cornelia Wulff, and Hugo Westerlund. "Office Design's Impact on Sick Leave Rates." Ergonomics 57, no. 2 (Feb. 2014): 139-47.






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