The Negatives Of An Open Plan Office

Open plan office

Anyone who works in an open plan office will be familiar with noise. This is particularly true in call centres or workplaces that combine sales staff with general office staff. It is also an unfortunate fact that most people will simply have to put up with the amount of noise generated.

Many become desensitized to the noise but there are also many who simply cannot cope with the loud environment that is created. Trying to focus on your work can be hard when you have to listen to the shenanigans that happened at the weekend a few desks down.

So what makes the open plan office such a loud place to work? Besides people talking you can also be inundated with the constant tapping of keyboards, bombarded with ringing phones and occasional shouting from one end of the office to another.

Downsides Of An Open Plan Office

For anyone who prefers peace and quiet, open plan offices often be a maddening experience. This style of office is becoming more popular around the world as it often encourages an open and honest style of working.

Employees in a department can all feel like part of a team with an open office plan as they can easily talk and see each other. It also allows for inter-departmental cohesion. But the downside is that the open floor office plan can lead to a decrease in productivity from employees due to noise.

A study in the Acoustical Society of America found that employees who overhear work related conversations actually experience a decline in their performance of cognitive tasks. Researchers from Yamaguchi University in Japan specifically looked at how background noise effects concentrations.

Tests performed found that participants found meaningful noise such as certain elements of music or conversation were rated more irritating than other noises.

How Do You Try To Reduce The Noise?

While trying to reduce the amount of unwanted noise in an open plan office may seem like a futile cause, there can be ways to shut out noise that is particularly unwanted. A simple yet incredibly effective way may be to wear headphones and play soothing music that will not impact your working but will block out the sounds from outside.

While music was listed as an irritant above, music that you specifically choose can actually be a benefit. Music without words is particularly useful as it does not allow your brain to latch onto anything you’re hearing.

A 2008 study from Finnish offices found that 48% of employees reported that speech was the most disturbing noise source for them in an open office. As such, music with lyrics in will be no help here, instead opt for genres such as classical music. Video game soundtracks can often be ideal music to play as this has been specifically designed to play in the background and not serve as a distraction.



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Sarah Jubb

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