Before the pandemic started, employees focused and immersed themselves in their tasks in their respective office cubicles. Although this gives them peace and quiet from pesky workmates, this setup is increasing stress levels, a study found.
Research published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at the importance of an open office plan in the psychological wellbeing of workers. The floor design, which avoids partitions in desks, aims to increase collaboration and interaction among employees.
The lead researcher, Casey Lindberg, believes that employees have become sedentary at work, so much so that it adds to the stress that they face. As such, the study’s leader thinks that any type of physical activity will result in tons of benefits.
Although not for everybody, an open office plan has a lot of advantages. The researchers closely looked at the physical activity and stress levels of over 230 healthy government workers.
Some of the participants worked in spaces with high walls or fully walled-off partitions while the others were in an open office, either with no or low partitions. It was found that those in open workplaces were 20 percent more active than employees in cubicles and 32 percent more active than those in private offices.
More interestingly, the more active workers had lower stress levels by 14 percent than their sedentary colleagues. It was also found that men were more active than women in office and heavier and older employees were more stressed than their leaner and younger officemates.
How An Open Office Plan Works
So how exactly does an open office plan work to help employees become active? The lead researcher believes that it may be because the workers are more aware of others in this setup. As such, more employees move around in search of privacy, especially when interacting or conversing with others through phone or in person.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Divisions of Cognitive and Motor Aging chief Joe Verghese explained that the workplace, where people spent most of their time during weekdays, has an effect on the stress levels of employees. However, there are other factors to consider, including personality types, workflow, and education.
More than reducing the stress levels of the employees, an open office plan sort of eliminates the sense of hierarchy and fosters a friendlier environment where workers can simply talk to their peers and supervisors. In terms of brainstorming, this setup allows faster flow of creative ideas since everyone involved can openly express their concepts immediately.