The Open Plan Office – Yay or Nay?

On average, we spend 33% of our working day in the office. With so much time spent at our desk, the position, structure, and layout of the office we find ourselves can have a massive impact on our mood, productivity, and wellbeing. Today, we’re discussing the effect of the popular, open plan office.

Not sure what an open plan office is? With nearly 70% of offices adopting an open plan layout, chances are you’re reading this in one right now. An open plan office is the term used in architectural and interior design for a floor plan which utilises large, open spaces, and minimises the usage of private offices.



Happy workerWith open plan office design being so popular, why do so many businesses opt for this floor plan? An open plan office saves on floorspace, allows the office building to be heated and lit more efficiently, and is far easier to clean and maintain than dozens of private rooms.

In terms of office relations, an open plan environment allows for open collaboration and spontaneity. Colleagues are more likely to foster friendship and camaraderie over their desks, establishing coffee rounds and forming stronger bonds. Colleagues are also more likely to pick up on stress cues when in the same office, lending support as and when necessary.



Open plan offices may be far more prevalent, but are they preferred by the Work stressworkers themselves? A Steelcase study (2014), found that a massive 85% of workers are dissatisfied with their current working space. Only 30% of office workers have any say over where they work and when, and 23% of workers below senior level have a private working space. This is in comparison to 89% of those in senior positions.

A recent study by Gensler (2016) found that open plan offices negatively affect worker productivity, and this is supported by a What Workers Want survey, which found that over a quarter of employees felt that their current workplace design was making them less productive, with 53% believing productivity would increased if they attained their ideal office environment.

Open officeGensler investigated productivity levels in difference office design, and found that the most productive worker is in a private office, at a productivity level of 4.2/5, in comparison to open plan office workers, who have productivity levels of 3.5/5. This is boosted by findings that workers are more likely to be innovative if they have a range of office spaces to support different working styles.

Far more than just personal preference, some studies have found that working in an open plan office can have a negative effect on worker’s mental and physical health. With a recent Swedish study finding that employees working in an open plan office take 63% more sick leave than those with individual offices. Indeed, a recent study by Indoor Air (2015), found that workers suffer increased levels of poor physical or mental health when they must share an office.

Join the debate


Do you love working in an open plan office, or do you wish for a room of your own? Get involved in the debate, and let us know your experiences in the comments section!