Open office plans became popular years ago with the idea that they would increase interaction and collaboration among workers. In theory, there are plenty of good reasons to switch to open offices. Social environments play a big role in people’s ability to be proactive and motivated, and success in the modern workplace is often driven at least in part by how well individuals interact with others. However, the need for concentration and focused work time has not gone away, and open offices may run counter to this need. Research shows that when employees can’t concentrate, they tend to communicate less and often become indifferent to their co-workers, a counterproductive outcome of the open office environment. In fact, a new report found that employees in open offices spend 73 percent less time in face-to-face interactions than employees in more traditional office spaces, and use of email and direct messaging services increased by over 67 percent. It would appear that in open offices, the desire to increase collaboration and interaction comes at the expense of the ability to concentrate. To get the balance right, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, work environments need to provide various options and allow employees to choose the option that will enable them to work most effectively.
Open Offices Discourage Collaboration