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Open Work Spaces Can Make You Sick

Open work space

In just about every start-up, our office space was a room with whatever furniture we could pull together that could support some weight, didn’t wobble with regular use, and wasn’t sticky to our touch.  Designers came along and called this “eclectic.”  We called it “free.”

As you focus on your core business interests and direction, office space can often be the last thing on the list, but there are dozens of studies that support the importance of space and how it supports our abilities to perform.

After decades of cube development and design in height, width, drawers, no drawers, and then moving to the open floor space (back to eclectic) it’s interesting to read Fast Company’s “The Slow Death of Open Spaces” (February 2019).

According to the article, “employees don’t like them, and research proves they’re ineffective.”  This is interesting given all the reports that tout how well they’ve worked in recent years, how cool they look to a visitor (is there an advertising agency anywhere in the world with cubes?), how it saves money on cubes, increases the number of people in small spaces – wait, this sounds like coach on any domestic airline, doesn’t it?

“Researchers have shown that people in open offices take nearly two-thirds more sick leave and report greater unhappiness, more stress, and less productivity than those with more privacy.”  A 2018 Harvard Business School study found that “open offices reduce face-to-face interaction by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50% – shattering the notion that they make workers collaborative.”

And, there you have it.  Twenty years ago, we got rid of walls (no topically political pun intended here) to improve collaboration and face to face interactions and the result, apparently,  is less of both and more sick-leave.

Obviously, the answer for maximum efficiency is a mix of private spaces, open spaces, and adjustable spaces like those that offer tables on wheels that can be moved around to accommodate one person, four, or twenty and so on.

Maybe there are tables on wheels with adjustable walls that can be moved around your space as needed?

What do you think?

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Written by Allan Rahn

“Inspiring accelerated achievement and long-term improvement” underscores the foundation for Allan’s engagement process with executives through which he drives effective business solutions, practical leadership models, sustainable team effectiveness, and measurable results.

Allan’s three decades of experience in developing and leading individuals and teams, senior leaders, executives and C-suite members in corporate environments offer immediate and impactful support to CEOs and other top-level executives and teams.

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