Fast Company decided to test the idea that open office spaces are better than cubicals or offices. So they did a scientific controlled study on noise aspects and published the results in the Cambridge Press.
The results? There is a significant causal relationship between open-plan office noise and physiological stress. Compared to quieter private offices, even after a short exposure of 8 minutes, they found a causal relationship between open-plan office noise and both stress and negative mood. Negative mood increased by 25% and sweat response by 34%. While there was no immediate effect on reduced work performance, it is reasonable to assume such hidden stress over the longer term is detrimental to well-being and productivity.
Chronically elevated levels of physiological stress are known to be detrimental to mental and physical health. Frequently being in a negative mood is also likely to harm job satisfaction and commitment. It potentially increases the likelihood of employees leaving.
Is it a surprise then that surveys show up to 70% of employees will seek new jobs if their employer does not offer flexibility to work from home some of the time?
Combine this with the fact that workers have demonstrated they are usually MORE productive working at home, and one should really start to question what has made us so unhappy at the office – even when 70% of people supposedly have these ‘better’ open office workspaces.
It might not matter anyway – because COVID issues that will likely linger for years may be the final straw that kills open offices, since open office spaces provably spread illness at much higher rates than cubicles and offices.