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Are open office designs making us sick?

Posting in Design
Open offices might help boost workplace collaboration and creativity. But the popular office design has some drawbacks. If the office goes all in with the open design without allowing for individual work stations, workplace productivity can decrease. And now a new study shows that open office design could also be helping our germs collaborate more than we would like.

In the study, published in the journal Ergonomics, scientists at Stockholm University analyzed health data from almost 2,000 employees working in seven different office designs. Their findings: a "significant excess risk" of short sick leave spells in three of the open office designs, especially for women. In flex offices, with meeting rooms but no individual work spaces, men had a higher rate of short sick leave spells and a higher number of sick days.

It's something for office managers to keep in mind before making a drastic change to an office that is completely open. 

But, the researchers say this study is just the beginning in understanding how our work environment impacts our health.

As the study points out: "[T]he results of this explorative study should only be viewed a first step in the investigation of the long-term effect of the office environment's impact on employee sickness absence. These results can thus only be viewed as indications of the possible effect of office type on sickness absence." 

Photo: Flickr/sardinista

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— By on March 4, 2014, 7:34 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure