Thinking about moving to an open-plan office? Think again…

Around 70% of people in America work in open plan offices.

I couldn’t find comparable numbers for Singapore/Asia but my guess is that the figure will be lower.

However, I have been hearing from more and more people in Singapore, that their company switched to a complete open-plan concept. None of these people were happy about it.

Some examples of companies in Singapore ditching the ‘traditional’ office layout includes American Express and Standard Chartered Bank. For them it was most likely part of a global mandate and local offices probably didn’t have a choice.

But in case you do have a choice and are considering an open-plan concept for your office, stop and consider these points.

  1. Employees in open-plan offices fall ill more often: A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that open office setups reported 62% more sick days on average than one-occupant layouts. No surprise here – since viruses and bacteria spread more easily in open offices.    
  2. People don’t like the noise: Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University conducted a study to check which aspects of office design (sound, temperature, office layout, air quality , lighting, etc.) had the biggest impact on employee productivity. They found that sound and temperature mattered the most. Employees do not like constant noise from conversations, ringing phones and machines.
  3. Open office layouts make people unhappy: According to a study by Calgary University, open-plans lead to more stress and less satisfaction with the environment. They also break down team relations further.
  4. Open plan offices reduce productivity: A literature review of studies from the Journal of Human Ecology, Academy of Management Journal and Administrative Science Quarterly, revealed that reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction and lower privacy negatively affects productivity in open-plan environments.

The question is –  Are the cost savings from moving to an open-plan concept still worth it, after taking these points into account?

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