Open office floor plans work.
Workers who sit in open office seating have less stress and greater activity levels than those who sit in private offices or cubicles, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Arizona published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study looked at of 231 workers in a federal office building who wore sensors to measure their activity levels and stress for three full days and two nights.
The study revealed that those in open seating were 32% more active at the office than those in private offices and 20% more active than those in cubicles. What’s more, workers who were more physically active at work ended up with 14% less stress outside of the office than their less active (i.e. cubicle and office-bound) colleagues.
So what’s going on here? The open floor plan may encourage workers to get up and move more — and that increased activity may be driving their lower stress levels during after-work hours, the researchers concluded.
This research may be especially important because working in an office can be harmful to your health. Sitting all day at work, as most office workers do, can put you at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and even early death, according to numerous studies. And stress — which more than 1 in 3 workers say they “typically” feel during their workday — can contribute to everything from high blood pressure and heart disease to asthma, cancer and digestive disorders.
“This research highlights how office design, driven by office workstation type, could be an important health promoting factor,” Dr. Esther Sternberg, who directs the UA Institute on Place, Wellbeing and Performance, concluded of the research.
But before you go tearing down your cubicle wall, take note: Other research finds that open office plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. A study of 40,000 workers published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that workers found open office floor plans distracting and too noisy. The study concluded that the “benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”
And another study by researchers at Harvard University found that the open floor plan — typically created to enhance collaboration — actually decreases face time and communication between colleagues.
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