Open office plans are the trendy new way to set up an office space. They offer open communication and fewer barriers between workers. But does an open office plan influence the health of the workers? A new study says yes.
Researchers from the University of Arizona’s Institute on Place and Wellbeing studied the health of 230 US government workers to determine the health impact of an open office plan. The participants were tracked over a period of three days using activity sensors, heart sensors, and smartphone apps.
The study found that people working in an open office plan with no desk partitions were on average 20 percent more physically active than people working in cubicles. In comparison to people working in private offices, those in open office plans were 32 percent more active.
The researchers hypothesize the reason people in open office plans were more active might be because they have to get up and move around in order to have private one-on-one meetings, video calls, and conferences.
Another hypothesis is that people working in an open office plan are more likely to have sit-stand desks, giving them the ability to stand while working. Sitting for extended periods of time can lead to health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and even premature death.
Dr. Esther Stenberg, director of the Institute on Place and Wellbeing, said, “If we can figure out how to design offices to allow people to be more active, that will result in better health and lower stress, so educating people about that is really important.
Pros and cons of an open office plan
Two of the top cons of open offices include distractions and lack of privacy, both of which can create a stressful environment for workers. However, open offices come with plenty of pros as well.
Pros of an open office include:
- Better communication between workers
- Cheaper real estate options for employers
- Layout flexibility
- Better aesthetics
- Barrier breakdown between management and employees