Open space offices, goodbye!
Let’s go back to private offices
Open space offices had been depicted as the workplace of the future, but a survey carried out by the Queensland University of Technology of Brisbane (Australia) showed this revolutionary idea caused aggressiveness and unrest among the employees.
The idea of creating an Action space in an office environment was created by Robert Propst in 1968. He wanted to create a barrier-free workplace where ideas, pieces of news and creative energy could spread easily. He proposed to tear down walls and build semi-enclosed one-person-only work spaces that were suitable to support employees in performing their job. He wanted to provide employees with private spaces they could personalize with no restrictions.
The idea was potentially positive and it was immediately applied to the spaces available in every kind of office building. The initial aim of modernization through the constructive sharing of working spaces with the preservation of privacy was not achieved. The working environment started to be optimized by managers according to an increasing number of employees occupying the same room. Companies started to make the most of the available space to reduce rental costs and increase profits.
The concept of Action space was immediately translated into Open Space but the result was that employees had to face loss of privacy and identity, low work productivity and low job satisfaction, as working in an open plan work environment hindered spontaneous communication.
Cubicles are still today the epitome of the modern workplace in the United States of America and a nightmare for employees. They constantly feel under observation. Anyone can listen to phone calls and concentrate on one’s duty is really hard. Furthermore, they are easily distracted by noises and chats and fall ill more often. Vinesh Oomen – the person coordinating the study of the University of Brisbane – explained that these offices cause a high level of stress, conflicts, high blood pressure and a high employees turnover.
To conclude, the reduction in structural costs and in the costs of building facilities are followed by a skyrocketing rise in personnel costs. That is the reason why more and more experts and health service managers advocate a return to the traditional private office.
An office remains a complex organism where interrelated cultural, physical and psychological forces interact. Managers must adapt their workplace to their organisation’s needs and processes improving their corporate culture and image at the same time.
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