More and more companies – especially startups – are adopting open office floor plans. Startup teams tend to be more nimble, energetic and productive and many people assume that open offices contribute to those benefits. Moreover, for many companies, open offices offer an opportunity to reduce real estate footprint and costs – you can put more people into an open layout. In fact, as more companies embrace remote work, the need for dedicated private offices diminishes.
Despite this trend towards open offices, there’s a growing body of research casting doubt on the benefits of open offices. Researchers have found, for example, that the benefits of easy communication in an open office layout don’t outweigh the lack of privacy, and other disadvantages.
The chart below, from Harvard Business Review, summarizes the biggest complaints about different types of office layouts (based on a study of more than 42,000 U.S. office workers).
As you can see, people complain the most about open offices and cubicles.
The researchers, Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear of the University of Sydney wrote:
Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants’ overall work environmental satisfaction. The open-plan proponents’ argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature.
Should you sound the alarm and build private offices for your teams?