9 Reasons That Open-Space Offices are Insanely Stupid


It’s time to stop the insanity. Here’s why open-plan offices are a complete failure, and why you’ll benefit from getting rid of them.

Open-plan offices (large open spaces, shared work areas, and few private offices) are all the rage. In fact, approximately 70 percent of all offices now have an open floor plan.

If you’re thinking about making the leap, though, you might want to think again, because despite their popularity, open-plan offices create huge problems.

And if you’re stuck in an open-plan office, you might consider finding more traditional digs, because, well, here’s the straight skinny:

1. They decrease productivity.

Contrary to popular belief, open offices don’t increase collaboration or make people more productive. An Exeter University study showed they create a 32 percent drop in “workers’ well-being” and 15 percent reduction in productivity.

2. They make employees miserable.

A study of 10,000 workers funded by office furniture giant Steelcase revealed that “95 percent said working privately was important to them, but only 41 percent said they could do so, and 31 percent had to leave the office to get work completed.”

3. They create time-consuming distractions.

Office workers lose an average of 86 minutes per day due to distractions associated with open-plan offices. As a result, many employees are “unmotivated, unproductive, and overly stressed,” according to the study funded by Steelcase.

4. They make employees sick.

A study at Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.”

5. They result in more sick days.

Not surprisingly, employees in open-plan offices take more sick days.  According toThe New Yorker, companies with open-plan offices can expect employees to take awhopping 62 percent more sick leave.

6. They communicate a lack of trust.

People aren’t stupid. They know that behind the hip-sounding biz-blab about “collaborative work areas” lies the perennial desire of the paranoid, insecure micro-manager to peer over every worker’s shoulder at a moment’s notice.

7. They create vast political turmoil.

In open-plan environments, there are always a handful of private offices for the bigwigs. Because everyone hates the open plan, the struggle over who gets a “real office” is cutthroat, creating unnecessary bad blood and wounded egos.

8. They blunt your highly-paid brainpower.

According to one study, “senior engineers, bankers, and people working in financial services…found the open-plan environment challenging, particularly when focusing on complex tasks like analyzing figures or working on documents.”

9. They cost MORE than private offices.

Here’s the real kicker. As I pointed out in a recent post on LinkedIn, open-plan offices are so incredibly destructive to productivity that they’re a net huge loss, even in areas where office space is pricey.

Originally published at Inc.

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James, writes a daily column for Inc.com and is the author of the newly-published book Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

2 Replies to "9 Reasons That Open-Space Offices are Insanely Stupid"

  • Robert Boucher
    September 26, 2016 (11:44 am)

    I totally agree with Kara as I was in the same situation. This was very distracting and invasive to my work. I’ve had other employees in their “cubes” complete my sentences while I was on the phone with suppliers. Other employees would just hang over the cube wall while I was on the phone. It developed an unprofessional atmosphere. It was a terrible experience.

  • Kara Baekey
    August 31, 2016 (10:11 am)

    This could not be more spot on. After having an office for 5 years, I took a new role that involved an open floor plan. With 6 direct reports, it was very difficult for me to manage and mentor them without feeling like we had to go into a private, glassed in “meeting room” for a conversation which then had people buzzing. It also made me much less productive. I was constantly moving about the office with my lap top, trying to find a quiet place to work. It didn’t help that my boss was sitting right beside me when I was in my “assigned spot.” Horrible, horrible experience all around!