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Open plan offices

  • January 14th, 2009

No surprises in this story suggesting that open plan offices are bad for health.

I’d like to have found the original research report (in the Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management) but of more interest would be some sceptical research on the social effects of open plan offices.

In my experience instead of the expected extra "buzz" and cooperation a lack of privacy can create a library-like hush in an office, at least where there are not enough extroverts to challenge it.. It takes some insensitivity even for them to ignore the pointedly averted eyes and rigid concentration of ‘cublcle’ neighbours trying to discourage distraction.

I’m in favour of a strong open door  culture, but suspect the open plan is a bridge too far into the territory of the earnest kill-joys. Research could find more belly laughs and warmth where passing through an office doorway gives implicit permission for  joking and gossip. The office may legitimise rowdiness in a way that can’t be reasonable in an open plan area.


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