If your job involves staring at a computer screen whilst tucked inside a dull, grey cubicle all day, chances are you find yourself dreaming about wide, open plan offices, where fresh grass grows on the floor and indoor helter skelters are a common mode of transport. You probably curse the time you spend in your little box, but did you know that you’re actually safer in there than outside in the big, open plan world?
Open plan offices may offer more opportunities for social interaction with fellow co-workers, but studies show that this can actually be significantly worse for our health than our cubicle-dwelling colleagues. Stress, productivity, privacy and blood pressure can all be affected by working in open surroundings according to an Australian study.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, open plan offices are also more likely to increase the risk of catching a bug or virus. Have you ever had a week at work where it seemed as if EVERYONE was off sick with flu? It may be tempting to think they were all playing hooky, but in reality they were probably curled up in bed with a mug of Lemsip, thanks to sharing the air with their sickly colleagues.
Workers without the option of shutting themselves off from the world using demountable partition walls are more likely to be distracted by ringing phones, gossiping colleagues and people-watching, leading to a decrease in productivity. This in turn can generate stress, particularly when workers realise they’ve spent more time listening to how Cheryl from Accounts snogged the IT guy at the Christmas party, than finishing that big report or replying to a crucial email.
The open nature of these workspaces can also have an impact on your mental wellbeing, as your computer screen is likely to be visible by several people, and phone conversations carry across the room for all to hear. This can lead to insecurity and the ‘Big Brother’ feeling of being monitored at all times. By contrast, office workers who spend their days inside a cubicle suffer from minimal noise pollution and can take control of a more personal space, by adorning their walls with images of loved ones or inspirational messages.
So, you may not like your cubicle, but in future, when all you’re pining for is window with a nice view, take heed in the knowledge that you’re probably more relaxed, productive and healthier than those smug employees at Google and Facebook.
Gavin Harvey is personal trainer who loves to share his passion for exercise with his clients. When he’s not completing circuits in the park or motivating clients, Gavin loves nothing more than to catch up on his favourite reality TV shows and improve his rapidly expanding knowledge of DIY, as well as blogging for appliedworkplace.co.uk.