3 Reasons Why Having an Open-Plan Office Can Actually Hurt Your Startup

open office

It’s no secret that many (if not all) startups today turn towards an open-plan office. Afterall, it’s the new cool thing to do and many of today’s most successful companies do it including Facebook, Square, and Twitter, to name a few. There are also a few positives to having this approach to your office- earlier this year, Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel told Slate in an interview:

“…open plan is pretty spectacular. It ensures that everyone is attuned to the broad mission, and … it encourages curiosity between people who work in different disciplines. So the art department and staff writers – who at most magazines are separated like lemurs and rhinos – end up mixing and lingering whenever they spot something of interest.”

Apart from that, open-plan offices are simply convenient. You can add and break down tables as you wish and it offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to rearranging the whole office. As many of us know, startups can grown and downsize quite rapidly, so the versatility of an open-plan office should seem quite fitting for such an environment. But is having a work environment REALLY good for your company? After some research, there seems to be some sound research suggesting that an open-plan office can be quite detrimental. Here are three reasons why.

1. Office relationships are more “fake.”

According to an article on Time, “while conversations are indeed frequent among employees in open offices, they tend to be short and superficial — precisely because there are so many other ears around to listen.” This does make sense in a way because when you know everyone can hear you speak, you are most likely going to be careful with your choice of words, especially if you want to talk shit about the person across from you who keeps stealing your food in the office fridge.

2. Employees get sick easier.

In a study done by the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that open office setups reported 62% more sick days on average than the traditional office setup. There were two explanations for this: the obvious one is open offices allows germs to be spread easier and the other suggests that open offices provide less privacy, which makes workers more stressed out, which makes them easier to get sick – seems legit.

3. It makes everyone less productive.

According to researchers from Virginia State University and North Carolina State University, open office plans are linked to lower productivity. Not only are the side conversations, phone chatter, and the amplification of typical office noise potentially distracting for everyone, but the ease of helping others can also have adverse effects on productivity. According to a study by German and Swiss researchers, people who get help with their tasks perform better, but they found that it’s detrimental to the person who’s helping. They concluded that constantly helping others while doing their own work “imposes a heavy cognitive load,” which basically means too much for your brain to handle.

So if you are lucky enough to get an office for your startup, you might want to rethink the kind of office plan you want to have. Is everyone going to get their own closed-door office? Maybe go for the corporate cubicle life? Perhaps it’s time to innovate and create a new office plan that maximizes productivity and office culture. What kind of office do you want to work in?

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