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How does open space affect the work of employees

We share the results of research on the performance of employees in open space: how open space affects the volume and form of communication between people, what are the positive and negative sides of such a choice

Usually, the company chooses an open office space to save on rent and ensure employee interaction. But a lot of research has shown that open space is more harmful to companies than useful.

Scientists Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephen Turban took 52 employees of one company from the departments of technology, sales and pricing, HR, Finance, and product development for the experiment, and also included the level of top management in the group. Employees worked in offices. They have sensors that track who they communicate with, how often they communicate, how many emails they send and receive each day, and so on. The information was collected over a three-week period. Next, the entire Department was moved to the same area, but in an open space environment. Three months later, the researchers again put sensors on them and measured the same indicators of communication and emails. Again, the study lasted three weeks.

The results showed that these 52 participants reduced live communication by 72% after moving to a new workplace. Before the experiment, one employee had about 6 hours of communication daily, after the experiment, each employee communicated about two hours daily. Despite the fact that every employee could see their colleagues in the workplace, the focus shifted from live communication to email communication. Participants sent a total of 56% more emails than before the experiment. Texting in the instant messaging applications have become 67% more often.

The managers of this company confirmed after the experiment that the productivity of employees has decreased. The study doesn’t say exactly how.

Also, open office space provokes constant distraction of employees from work. At the same time, University of Carolina Professor Gloria Mark found that each employee is distracted by various factors: a message, call or personal communication every three minutes and five seconds. And if work tasks are performed on a computer or phone, workers are distracted every two minutes and 11 seconds, so if you distract a person who is doing thoughtful and focused work, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back into mental activity. Add to this our desire to multitask, and we are constantly interrupted and re-loaded into the process for 23 minutes.

Psychologist Nick Perham studied the impact of office noise on human cognitive abilities and found that office noise impairs the ability of employees to remember information and perform basic arithmetic. Listening to music as an attempt to abstract from the noise does not help, even exacerbates the problem.

Michel Brill and BOSTI Associates conducted a study “Refuting common myths about workplace design”. For 6 years, they studied the opinions of 13 thousand respondents from 40 companies. So, they studied and digitized the influence of the office environment on the following factors:
Job satisfaction — 24% of the influence.
Individual result of work — 5% influence.
The team result is 11% influence.
The study examined the impact of distractions on people’s ability to perform work in a focused manner, depending on the type of office. With the increase in the number of employees in the office, the percentage of respondents who note the negative impact of colleagues ‘ conversations on their focus and focus of attention increases.

The results showed that the more open the workspace, the more people are distracted by the conversations of others, with 65% of all respondents who are in an open space “often distracted”.

We recently conducted a survey on employee satisfaction and engagement and added workplace satisfaction factors to the survey. The hypothesis was to test the differences between the level of satisfaction and the organization of the workplace: office or open space. As you might expect, the level of employee satisfaction with the workplace in the office is significantly higher than in an open office space. The differences were statistically significant. But this was not a pure experiment, we did not have a control group.

But there is also a positive impact of shared space on the solution of team tasks. For example, Gloria Mark also conducted a study on the collaboration of NASA engineers. They put a group of 17 engineers in one room to design the spacecraft, and they were able to reduce the work time from six months to nine hours. One reason is that they could track errors right away, and they didn’t need to redo the design.

When designing office space, companies need to save space for” quiet zones ” where employees can think, where they won’t hear colleagues talking on the phone.

It is necessary to create more private working conditions for employees engaged in intellectual activities: lawyers, financiers, accountants, compensation and benefits specialists, analysts, developers, and so on. You don’t need to combine them with sales staff, customer service, marketers and recruiters, and other “noisy” departments.

If some departments or project teams need to work together on team tasks, they need to create shared work zones. Of course, open space is probably not going anywhere from offices, but companies need to remember the experience of these studies, the negative impact on the performance of employees and take it into account in the design of office space.

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