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We need room to breathe: Open offices sour workers

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Open plan offices were meant to help workers connect and communicate better with their colleagues, but do they really improve productivity and satisfaction?

According to a new report, we may prefer our tiny cubicles after all.

Researchers Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear from the University of Sydney have compiled an interesting review of the thinking that goes behind the open office (more productive? happier staff? better communication?) and the reality -- a privacy trade-off which leaves employees unhappy about their lack of personal space, instead of the physical.

Based on the report, Harvard Business Review has compiled charts of the data, drawn from a survey database from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Below are the most common frustrations reported by workers in different environments.

 Harvard Business Review

The most common problems with open offices were the lack of privacy, less space and poor temperature control. However, the most recorded beef with the layout is high noise levels. As the most despised annoyance in the workplace, hearing everyone else's conversations irritate 60 percent of cubicle workers and half of partitionless employees.

Research cited by the authors says that "the loss of productivity due to noise distraction ... was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices, and the tasks requiring complex verbal process were more likely to be disturbed than relatively simple or routine tasks."

Meanwhile, workers in enclosed spaces reported the least amount of frustration. Maybe, in the end, employees simply need their own space to get on with things.

Via: Fast Co.Exist

Image credit: Flickr

— By on November 21, 2013, 4:47 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure