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Open plan office healthy?

The downfall of open plan offices

Open plan offices may look great, but the truth is, workers hate the lack of privacy, too much noise and are more prone to catch the flu. The wall of every office should have a poster saying: ‘Coughs & sneezes spread diseases’. But open plan offices don’t have walls.

A recent study shows that it is the stylishly airy design of open plan offices, that allow viruses to move quickly through the workforce, bringing them down with illness. It’s the reason for reduced productivity and well-being.

Distractions in Open plan offices

If you have ever worked in any open plan offices, you will know how dangerously easy you can be distracted by the open tin of Whispers on a coworker’s desk. If you are only faintly as inquisitive as me, another distraction will be the whispered conversation the boss is having.

Oh and what about the colleague playing wrap or heavy metal on her recorder under her desk? As much as you hate it, in a few minutes your foot is tapping to every phrase or melody and you are concentrating to stop it, rather than on your work.

Different layouts of open plan offices

A study in Ergonomics, investigated ways in which the different layouts of open plan offices, linked to sick leave days taken. They studied the single-room office, a shared-room office, the ‘combi-office’ (with people work in teams) and the ‘flexi-office’ with no individual workspaces.

They found, for female workers, the worst offenders were the three sizes of open plan offices.

For men, flexi-offices were most likely to result in days taken off, for flu and colds.

Other ways that open plan offices impact health

Background noise or ‘irrelevant sound’ and a cacophony of conversations, make concentration very difficult.

Lack of visual privacy. It is a fact that whenever you’re in a crowd, the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism is on permanent standby and impacting on your adrenal glands which has a negative effect on the immune system.

No control of personal space. In an open plan office there is no room for personal items such as family photos or personal stationery. You’re always a nomad, never feeling ‘at home’.

Is it not time to return to the old-fashioned model, allowing peace and quiet and a door to guard against flu epidemics?

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This article originally posted on: and reposted with permission.



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