Open plan offices ‘are a really bad idea’, scientists conclude

Open plan office rex
Open plan office rex

Open-plan offices were supposed to make us a bit more chatty, and prone to working together in healthy, sparkly new ways.

But researchers from Harvard Business School have analysed what really happens in open-plan offices… and it’s not quite what everyone expected.

Researchers followed employees at two companies which were reorganising office space to be open-plan – monitoring how they communicated in person and via email.

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They found that in an open-plan office, face-to-face chats drop 70%, while emails go up 20-50%.

The researchers wrote, ‘That can have profound consequences for how – and how productively – work gets done.

‘To our knowledge, no prior study has directly measured the effect on actual interaction that results from removing spatial boundaries to create an open office environment.’