Why People Are Embracing Open Offices With Quiet Spaces

In recent years many companies have moved to open office spaces.  According to the International Facilities Management Association, 70 percent of U.S. offices have open floor plans. Among its supporters are esteemed companies such as Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs, and American Express.
The notion behind the trend is that open work spaces foster collaboration, engagement, accessibility, and creativity. However, in a study conducted over the past decade surveying 65,000 workers across four continents, found that more than half of office workers were dissatisfied with their levels of “speech privacy.” Another 30 percent complained about their lack of visual privacy. Additionally, employee productivity can be hindered by the open workspaces that companies are so quick to embrace.
One of the biggest problems in open work spaces, unsurprisingly, is noise. Speech in particular, is a serious problem in the open office design, because it is understood by the brain’s working memory, making it the most disturbing type of sound. To fix the problems that open offices create while maintaining the benefits they possess, modern offices are moving towards a balance of both open and private spaces.
Some companies make sure to have one private room for every 8 employees. Others have conference rooms that are open by appointment. Some are implementing libraries clad with bookshelves and an unspoken “no talking” rule. Creating quiet spaces in the midst of open workspaces allow for collaboration when necessary, as well as quiet independent thought.
Source: NY Times

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