Open plan ‘bad for health’
Open plan living has become hugely popular in terms of residential set ups, creating a flexible space for the modern family, but, when it comes to commercial office space, the open plan layout tells a very different tale, causing workers’ health to deteriorate rapidly…
[UKPRwire, Sat Jan 24 2009] Open plan living has become hugely popular in terms of residential set ups, creating a flexible space for the modern family, but, when it comes to commercial office space, the open plan layout tells a very different tale, causing workers’ health to deteriorate rapidly…
Stressed at work? Check. The latest research from the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation has revealed that high stress levels are caused not just by the actual work but by the office layout.
In recent years, many offices have switched from individual offices to this more modern open plan design, hoping to create stronger relationships between staff members and more interaction between teams. Creating an open plan office space also saves money on construction costs as fewer materials are needed.
However, sitting at a desk in the middle of an open plan office has been found to lead to lower productivity and higher worker stress.
Dr Vinesh Oommen, Researcher from the Queensland Institute of Technology said, “The evidence we found was absolutely shocking.
“In 90 per cent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.
“The high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity,” added Dr Oommen.
Now, I’m sure we’ve all been there – that irritating colleague who insists on eating smelly foods at their desk, (old brown bananas being a repeat offender) that constant sniffing or coughing or endless personal phone calls. Any of those are enough to drive one to distraction.
Dr Oommen said, “There is also a higher chance of workplace conflict caused by sitting so close to someone that each time their phone rings you can get irritated.’
But surely that’s what work is all about – being part of a team, even if some members of the team insist on standing out for all the wrong reasons.
I used to work from home all week and found that I really missed the buzz of a team, the ability to bounce ideas off others and that crucial social aspect. I found cabin fever far more of an irritant that someone’s smelly food – though I’ll freely admit that can drive me bananas (sorry).
One aspect of this research that I do agree on is the increased risk of illnesses as bugs such as the influenza virus were more swiftly passed around in an open plan environment.
But surely that is just as likely to happen when travelling on any form of public transport, eating in restaurants and generally just leaving the house.
Working in a major metropolis such as London or New York, which have millions of workers, the space is an issue and creating individual offices for each of those workers is simply not feasible.
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