How to survive in an open office

The open office is now the most common office layout across the UK and the USA. But does it really work for employees and businesses?

Is it an open office more collaborative and egalitarian workplace? Or just a nightmare of noise and discomfort for employees?

The jury is still out on whether or not the open office improves or inhibits productivity. The downsides are the noise levels, the potential for distractions, lack of privacy and spreading of germs. And the argument for the open office hails its potential for employees to form stronger bonds with one another, and improved communication and collaboration.

Open offices are also generally more cost-effective to construct and maintain. They also provide a more flexible space, allowing for desks and other furniture and equipment to be added, removed and moved as necessary. 

Benefits aside, much research now points to the negative impact that office distractions in an open office environment have on productivity. A 2018 study by Harvard Business School found that open plan offices actually encourage less face-to-face collaboration.

They report a 67% increase in email communication between colleagues (probably because they don’t want to disturb one another). Another study found that 3-5 hours of productive time are lost every day to unwanted, unneeded and unproductive interruptions. 

This infographic from Smarter Business provides some stats to help you make your own decision, then suggests ways to keep your focus and survive in the open office.

Photo by LYCS Architecture