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New study rejects open-plan offices

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, July 16, 2018  /  06:07 am
New study rejects open-plan offices

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, utilized empirical evidence to prove that open, communal working spaces go against both productivity and happiness. (Shutterstock/File)

A new study led by a Harvard Business School professor has made a case against open-plan offices.

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, utilized empirical evidence to prove that open, communal working spaces go against both productivity and happiness.

Bernstein tracked a real-life renovation at the headquarters of an unnamed Fortune 500 company engaged in a “so-called war on walls”. He had their employees wear devices that tracked face-to-face conversation so that he could then compare it to changes in their online communication. 

It was then found that online communication increased significantly once the walls came down, while both in-person conversation and productivity declined. Employees went from meeting 5.8 hours per person over three weeks to only 1.7 hours per person.

Read also: How to be more productive at work

Employees also turned to email and instant messaging (IM) instead, as emails sent was 56 percent higher and IMs sent was 67 percent higher. The researchers believe that this is how the employees coped after having lost the privacy that walls brought.

Physical boundaries help people “make sense of their environment by modularizing it, clarifying who is watching and who is not, who has information and who does not, who belongs and who does not, who controls what and who does not, to whom one answers and to whom one does not,” explained Bernstein. (sul/kes)