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24 Reasons Your Open-Plan Office Sucks

Work in an open-plan office? You're being sold a bill of goods.

Posted on September 25, 2013, at 1:57 p.m. ET

1. First of all, your office environment is a major contributor to how happy you are at your job.


Dissatisfaction with work environment directly links to a lack of job satisfaction and lower productivity.

2. Workers in open-plan offices report increased distraction as a major detriment to job satisfaction.

3. Workers in open-plan offices are less satisfied with their job performance than those in private offices.

4. Noise and lack of privacy are the key sources of dissatisfaction in work environments...

5. Loss of productivity due to noise distraction is doubled in open-plan offices.

6. Overhearing irrelevant conversations is detrimental to any task that requires cognitive processing.


(i.e., most tasks)

7. Tasks requiring complex verbal processes are especially likely to be disrupted.

8. The inability to have private conversations in open-plan offices is cited as a major source of job dissatisfaction.

9. Uncontrollable noise doesn't just lower productivity, it also decreases overall motivation.

10. Perceived lack of visual privacy in open-plan offices is a major contributor to job dissatisfaction.

11. Some researchers feel that open-plan offices actually discourage collaboration, due to lack of privacy.

12. Excessive, uncontrolled social interaction leads to overstimulation and loss of focus.

13. The benefits of collaboration don't outweigh sound and privacy issues.

14. The notion that open-plan offices are good for productivity isn't founded in research. It's just the cheaper option.

15. There is also no empirical evidence that open-plan offices facilitate interaction and collaboration between coworkers.

16. In fact, ease of interaction doesn't rate as a major concern for office workers, regardless of work environment.

17. Personal space is more important than any other factor contributing to job satisfaction, and open-plan offices typically allow for less.


18. Workers in open-plan offices report higher levels of distress, irritation, fatigue, headache, and concentration difficulties.

19. In fact, one study even reported that workers in open-plan offices take more sick days than those in enclosed offices.


This has come to be called Sick Building Syndrome.

20. Workers in open-plan offices did complain about temperature, but so did people in enclosed offices.


Regardless of layout, someone is always going to complain about the temperature.

21. Open-plan offices are not something that workers can "just get used to."


People coming from more traditional office layouts reported that they were unable to adapt to open-plan offices.

22. People in enclosed offices are just as satisfied with their ability to collaborate and interact with colleagues as people in open-plan offices are.

23. In terms of noise privacy, the only thing worse than an open-plan office is an office with high-partition cubicles.

24. The disadvantages of open-plan offices dominate any positive impacts cited in previous studies.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.