Large open offices stress people out

January 14th, 2009 - 11:06 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 14 (IANS) Offices housed in large, open spaces can be really bad for health, causing high stress and blood pressure levels, besides conflicts and attrition. Researcher of Indian origin Vinesh Oommen, who led the study, said the evidence they found was “absolutely shocking”.Oommen, of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, has reviewed everything that was written and researched about such offices and how they affect employees, and the news, he said, is not good. The study has been published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management.

“In 90 percent of research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover,” Oommen said.

“It has been found that the high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity.

“There is also a higher chance of workplace conflicts - sitting so close to someone that each time their phone rings you can get irritated; I think most of us, including myself, can relate to that.”

Oommen also said that working in an open-plan office could contribute to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of illnesses, as bugs such as the influenza virus were easily passed around in that environment.

“Based on these findings, I think employers around the country need to rethink the open-plan environment in their offices,” he said.

“The research found that the traditional design was better - small, private closed offices.” However, he said some workplaces may be unwilling to change the office style, said a QUT release.

“Having an office environment that promotes health and high productivity would be more beneficial to employers in the long run.”

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