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Here are some dread-inducing statistics on open plan offices

People feel spied upon, distracted, and depressed by their workspaces, reports a survey that will surprise no one.

Here are some dread-inducing statistics on open plan offices
[Source Image: ismagilov/iStock]

Do people really care about working in offices with social events and perks like cold brew taps and ping-pong tables? Or do people simply want a quiet, comfortable place to do their work in peace before heading home to their actual lives? According to an online survey of American office workers conducted by the public opinion survey company YouGov, it’s–surprise!–the latter.

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The survey was commissioned by the company Room, which  makes modular workspaces and obviously has a strong motive to paint open-plan offices in a negative light. But the results are still interesting, for the picture they paint of life in American offices today.

Overall, the survey polled more than 4,000 workers, and more than 400 open plan workers specifically. A few notes on how this design paradigm makes people feel: 31% of people have “held back their true thoughts and opinions while on calls in the office because they don’t want coworkers to hear and judge them.” 16% people feel their “overall quality of health has declined” in open plan offices. 13% say they’ve considered leaving their jobs because of their office layout.

Bleak! But not compared to the survey’s other conceit, which was to ask these workers what they’d give up for private workspaces.

  • 13% said they’d give up their end-of-year bonuses.
  • 13% said they’d give up five vacation days, and 16% said they’d do away with summer Fridays.
  • 17% said they’d give up access to a window or natural light.
  • 27% said they’d give up their office’s coffee machine.

And then there’s the concession that will surprise no one: Of these hundreds of workers, one in four would give up their office’s holiday party for access to a more private workspace.

It would be easy to pin the blame purely on design trends here, but the fact of the matter is that the open plan office is one of many solutions companies have used for decades to do two things: Keep overhead as low as possible, and keep an eye on employees.

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About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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