It’s been the trend for some time; to increase collaboration and teamwork. The use of open plan offices.
But new research shows that the opposite is actually true. Open plan offices increase the use of email between coworkers and decrease face to face collaborations and interactions..
What the research says
In one study:
“The results were stark: after the shift to an open-plan office space, the participants spent 73 per cent less time in face-to-face interactions, while their use of email and instant messenger shot up by 67 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.”
In another study:
“Overall, face-to-face time decreased by around 70 per cent across the participating employees, on average, with email use increasing by between 22 per cent and 50 per cent (depending on the estimation method used).”
Why would open plan offices decrease collaboration and interactions?
There are probably a few things going on here. Firstly – employee satisfaction decreases due to a lack of privacy, perceived control and decreased workplace conditions. Secondly – it can become more challenging to hold conversations that are tricky or delicate or even sensitive in front of others. So, rather than take the conversations off line, employees instead resort to the “safety” of email.
It’s tempting to want to save space with an open plan office. There’s also something egalitarian around everyone having the same space. But this may be one of the areas where it is really worth doing the research before hand, as if doesn’t work, it could be a costly mistake.
Equally, if you have an open plan office at present, and you think collaboration, communication and teamwork are an issue at your workplace – consider if this is a contributing factor.
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