There are plenty of arguments against open plan offices, some of which are pretty compelling, but as with most topics, counter-arguments are easy to come by. That’s why a paper recently published by a Dr. Vinesh Oommen in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management could be quite significant.
It’s “a large-scale literature review of everything written and researched about open plan offices and how they affect employees” and it finds that “in 90 percent of research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative” (see press release for more).
That’s a big deal, because it’s not just a solitary paper, which could be impeccably well-researched but dismissed as “Ah well, that doesn’t apply to our situation”. This is an overview of the current state of human knowledge of open-plan offices, which says that overwhelmingly, in a nut-shell, they are found to suck. Traditional, private offices with a door are better.
This paper isn’t going to change the popularity of open plan offices overnight, but I tell you what – it should! I’ll do my small bit to help by mentioning it here; thanks to tobyaw, who brought it to my attention first although I’ve seen it crop up elsewhere since.