The Truth Behind Open Work Environments

Open Work Environments

Having an open work environment is becoming more and more popular each year. Open floor plans are believed to increase productivity and creativity as they allow improved teamwork and collaboration opportunities. In addition, open work environments, with only a few or no individual offices, are much more affordable for business owners who plan on renovating a warehouse-type space or are having a brand new building constructed. Before committing to this type of office space, it is important to look at all the research behind the popular trend.

The Benefits

According to research done by WellRight, a corporate wellness platform, an open work environment can be beneficial when it comes to teamwork and collaboration. They cite Jeff White, co-founder and principal of Kula Partners, who stated, “I’ve never seen collaboration happen as readily and as easily as it does in an open office environment. Watching designers, marketers and developers collaborate informally and frequently is a real joy for me. I can say without question that better work happens when teams work together (especially between disparate departments). This simply doesn’t happen when everyone is in their own cubicle or office.”

Additional benefits include:

  • Improved relationships among employees and supervisors
  • Enhanced sense of respect and value among all individuals
  • Flexibility to rearrange the space to fit all projects

The Drawbacks

When WellRight sought out feedback from employees about the benefits or drawbacks of open office plans, they got mixed responses that were overall skewed negative due to distractions. If individual work needs to be done, open work environments often require employees to use noise canceling headphones to try and reduce distractions and unnecessary interruptions. This inability to focus and get work done can lead to reduced productivity, as well as health issues. According to Mayo Clinic, working in an environment that makes it hard to focus can cause employees a sever amount of stress. If continued, this amount of stress can lead to anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment, and even heart disease.

Final Thoughts

Oxford Economics surveyed 1,200 executives and employees and found that 68% ranked the ability to work with minimal disruption in their top three most important elements of their workplace. In addition, Leesman, an organization dedicated to improving the employee experience, found that only 57% of employees believe that their workplace enables them to work productively. When asked to clarify what makes a productive work environment, respondents listed the need for quiet spaces meant for “Thinking/creative thinking”, “Reading”, and ‘“Individual focused work” as well as areas that supported creative and collaboration.

Thereforethe key to creating a high performing culture is to provide dedicated areas for both individual and team work. There should be an open work section meant for collaborating and projects that require teamwork, and the cubicles or office spaces will accommodate those doing individual based work that require focus.

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