There has long been controversy about the effectiveness of open office plans. Aside from lowering productivity though, is your open office making employees sick?
Recent studies have shown that employees in open office spaces take more than 62% more sick days that those who have privacy of cubicles, partition walls or offices. Open offices have also been associated with higher rates of Sick Building Syndrome—a condition where workers get headaches and respiratory problems directly linked to the time spent in the building—and with higher stress levels, which have been linked to weakened immune systems. Employees in open offices are getting sick more frequently than those in private offices or those who work from home.
Unfortunately, 1 in 4 employees go to work sick. So not only are employees getting sick more often, they are infecting their co-workers as well. If we look at how viruses like the flu spread, it’s easy to see how open office plans allows for germs to be spread more easily. People with the flu can spread it to others by contaminating any hard surfaces that they touch, as well as sneezing and coughing – which can infect people up to 6 feet away! Even something as simple as a low cubicle wall can decrease the risk of infection because it puts a barrier between co-workers.
Roughly 70% of U.S. offices use open-air concepts, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see this trend changes anytime soon. Just ask Apple, who recently spent $5 billion building a centralized office concept around the open office concept, an open office layout that many employees hated so much they refused to move into the building.
What are your thoughts on the open office plan? Join us for a discussion on LinkedIn!