The Solution to Open-Concept Office Backlash

The open-concept office layout has taken the corporate world by storm. Cubicles have been removed in an attempt to increase productivity and recruit new talent. Removing walls and barriers was supposed to foster a sense of community and camaraderie among the workforce. Words like “hip,” and “trendy,” were used to describe these office settings. Companies would spend big money to recreate their office, but the ROI never came.

“Almost 70% of American employees now work in open-concept office,” according to Forbes article “Why the Open-Concept Office Trend Needs to Die.” Adding that, “Unfortunately, open office aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They hurt our productivity, our job satisfaction and even our health.”

The idea of an open office is dying. The hope that creating an open atmosphere would increase productivity not only fell flat, it decreased productivity. “Open offices increase communication, but not all communication is a good thing. A lot of the time, the conversation is more about what’s on TV than about actual work,” said Jennifer Veitch, an environmental psychologist with the National Research Council of Canada.

According to “The Open Office Trap” article published in the New Yorker, “Organizational psychologist Matthew Davis found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense or organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.” Additionally, “Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress and lower levels of concentration and motivation.”

The sense of community and camaraderie quickly falls flat when you have no privacy. Imagine an open-concept neighborhood where the homes have no walls. Having no privacy doesn’t mean you feel connected to your neighbors, it makes you incredibly self-conscious.

To put in a different perspective, that same Forbes article compared an open-concept office to a prison. “Think of Bentham’s Panopticon prison design, which was meant to force inmates to self-regulate their behavior. Unable to tell if they were being observed or not, the layout of their surroundings would lead them to assume they were being watched at all times and act accordingly.”

Decreased productivity, lower office morale and no sense of job satisfaction is enough to make any company think twice about an open-concept office. In fact, it seems logical to go the opposite direction. A quiet office space may not seem trendy, but it does have its advantages.

Commercial acoustic solutions is a way to get the best of both worlds.

With professional-grade acoustics, an office will have the correct balance of decibels to decrease distractions and improve productivity. Moreover, executive and human resource offices need added privacy in order to maintain the confidentially of employees’ most sensitive information. Recently, our team at Performance Acoustics installed speciality acoustical insulation into two executive-level offices at XPO logistics, located in Ballantyne Corporate Place in Charlotte, N.C. “It’s imperative that we keep the sound isolated in our human resource and exec. offices due to the nature of the conversations that take place there. We want to respect and protect our employees’ privacy,” remarked XPO’s Operational Office Manager Alison Nixon.

Acoustical engineering is installed in a variety of settings to optimize sound – arenas, churches, sound stages and even restaurants. Why should an office space neglect sound when it is the very place many spend eight to nine hours daily? More and more, corporate offices are reinvesting in professional-grade acoustical solutions in order to reduce the noise level to fit their particular workplace needs; and the ROI? It’s immediate – within day you’ll hear and notice the difference.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you make your office a more ideal place to work!

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