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Workers dissatisfied with open plan offices


17 September 2013

Most people are dissatisfied with having to work in an open plan office, University of Sydney research has found.

PhD candidate Jungsoo Kim and Professor Richard de Dear from the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning found many feel open plan offices are disruptive to productivity.

"Open plan office layouts have been touted as a way to boost workplace satisfaction and team effectiveness in recent years," Mr Kim said.

"We found people in open plan offices were less satisfied with their workplace environment than those in private offices.

"The benefits of being close to co-workers in open plan offices were offset by factors such as increased noise and less privacy," he said.

Based on a survey of more than 42,000 office workers in the USA, Finland, Canada and Australia, Workspace satisfaction: The privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices, was published in the latest edition of Journal of Environmental Psychology.

The University of Sydney researchers analysed the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley's database which measured Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in office buildings.

IEQ includes factors such as indoor air quality, temperature, lighting, noise, privacy, and the amount of space an individual perceives they have.

In interpreting the data the University of Sydney researchers also further validated earlier findings that uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy are the main sources of workplace dissatisfaction in open plan offices.

"Open plan offices dominate modern workplaces yet there is little solid evidence they improve interaction between co-workers.

"Our research was the first to use such a large sample size as well as to compare the reportedly positives aspects of open plan offices with the negatives.

"It clearly indicates the disadvantages of open plan offices clearly outweigh the benefits," he said.


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Media contact: Jenny Eather, 0478 303 173, jenny.eather@sydney.edu.au