By: Richard Coad [MDB Chief Creative Officer]
Some seventy percent of all offices now have an open floor plan. The idea of an open floor plan was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the 1950's. It was supposed to facilitate communication and the flow of work. But a growing body of research shows that the open office may well undermine the very things it was designed to achieve.
In June of 1997, an oil and gas company in western Canada asked psychologists from the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional work environment to an open floor plan. The psychologists assessed the following factors: employee satisfaction with surroundings, stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships. They took measurements at four weeks after the transition and then again at six months. Their conclusions were not optimistic. Apparently, employees suffered according to every measure. The new space was disruptive, stressful, cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied and resentful. Of course, productivity fell.