Problems with Open Space Workplaces

For the high-performance employees who need quietness to concentrate on their works, the open spaces with the bustle created by other employees are an inappropriate environment. For the employees who tend to need their own space, the continued presence of others ‘above their heads’ may be a martyrdom.

[Fotini Mastroianni | Oped Column Syndication]


The majority of the present-day workplaces we see, work or are offered for sale or as rentals are those of open spaces. In these open space workplaces, many employees work with their offices (or working desks) very close to one another.

Initially, people were led to believe that the reasons for the creation of these open spaces were the rise in productivity, the creation of a collaborative working environment and creativity. However, the actual reason – behind making the idea of these open spaces more popular – was different. In reality, the idea behind this sort of workplace arrangement was the close monitoring of employees and the complete abolition of their privacy.

It is no coincidence, in support of the above, that in many of these open spaces, the person with superior official position is usually found in a glazed cabin in which s/he retains some privacy from – and compared to – the ordinary employees. These superiors can at the same time oversee others with his/her distinct role of power. This is about creating a modern production plant that has been transferred to the service sector. These spaces, thus, create problems.

Especially for the high-performance employees who need quietness to concentrate on their works, the open spaces with the bustle created by other employees are an inappropriate environment. Things are even worse for those employees who are introverts (note: introverts certainly make up a substantial portion of the populations in almost all the countries worldwide). For these employees who tend to need their own space, the continued presence of others ‘above their heads’ may be a martyrdom. If a colleague likes listening to music, the martyrdom may be worse.

Besides the sonic pollution, there is also visual contamination. The continuous movements of others distract attention and, hence, productivity vanishes.

People do not want to be in constant and close contact with others at the workplace and it has been noticed that good employee absenteeism increases.

Many research have been made in support of the above. More specifically, everyday 86 percent work are lost due to the various inconveniences that occur in open space workplaces and 23 percent employees are needed to recover from these inconveniences. Productivity decreases by 15 percent and employees welfare is reduced by 32 percent. Add to this the easy contamination of illnesses among the employees. According to a 2011 research in Denmark, the likelihood of an employee getting ill in these places increases by 62 percent.

However, there are better ways to manage these issues, including designing flexible working methods for the employees.

One method could be that the employees could work from home, with just one day a week presence in the company’s offices so that the employees do not remain isolated from one another, i.e. their colleagues.

Furthermore, if it is not possible to have separate office room/cabin for each of the ordinary employees, they should atleast be provided with office spaces (or working desk) with glass partitions.

These aforementioned ways are different proposals that are widely discussed at times, and some businesses have already started these methods.

The solution widely proposed internationally is the aforementioned method of allowing employees to work from home — something that is absolutely feasible with the current technological advancement.

This way, the company saves money from renting premises, and the employees become more productive.

The employees should, however, be careful in managing the balance between personal life and professional life (when they’re working from home), so that the situation or atmosphere at home is not turned into an workplace-like environment. Otherwise, there could be negative effects on the employee’s family life.


Fotini Mastroianni is an economist, MBA lecturer, writer, blogger from Athens, Greece. She had taught, among others, at the University of Wales & University of Glyndwr.


 

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