Study Finds Open-office Plan Not Ideal for Collaboration

By: Marie Donlon

The proliferation of open-plan work spaces has been the topic of much debate in recent years. One school of thought is that the open-concept invites increased collaboration and interaction among workers while another school of thought suggests that such an environment invites the opposite.

Now, a new study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B supports the latter school, suggesting that open-office plans encourage less face-to-face time among employees (73 percent less) and increased email and messaging as a form of communication (up by 67 percent).

Calling the lack of privacy and increased distractions from an open-office setting the cause for such a departure in face-to-face communication, the team analyzed employees via their electronic badges, microphones for monitoring interactions with coworkers and email usage to reach their conclusions.

The team determined that because the open-plan is distracting, workers become frustrated and thus less interested in collaborating with others. The team also found that the lack of privacy in an open-office plan invites defensive behaviors from workers as well as placing a strain on relationships among coworkers.