Open Offices Might Make Us Sick, According to Science
Mar 01, 2014 10:08
The trend of offices these days seem to evolve around the open office concept. But there are a lot of reasons to hate this plan. For one, it is loud. And it makes it hard to focus. Now, new research is saying that they might make us sick too.
A study in the journal Ergonomics used longitudinal data to compare sick leave rates among 1,852 Swedish employees working in different types of office plans: open offices of different sizes, private offices, shared private offices, flexible layouts with meeting rooms but no individual workstations and more.
The result: Because of the lack of barriers between you and your colleague, open offices resulted in significant excess risk for needing to take sick leave.
This was seen to be more prevalent among women, although for men, flex-offices were particularly associated with more short-term sick leave.
Researchers posit that with excess noise, lack of privacy and the inability to control your personal environment has the tendency to stress people out. And the risk of infection generally increases when you throw a bunch of people together.
It could also be that group dynamics in different office types influence whether people take sick days or not, and some may be less wiling to take leave if they work in a very small office where their coworkers depend heavily on their participation, versus a large open office.
Still, the study isn't very comprehensive. It was based on self-reported data from two surveys in 2010 and 2012, and they asked people how often they took sick leave in the past 12 months. The study did not control its baseline health of the participants and it was hard to point to the open office as the actual cause of employees taking sick days. The study, as cautioned by researchers, should only be viewed as a first step in the investigation of the long-term effect office environments have on employees' well-being.
But it does make sense no? Cough and sneeze, and the colleague less than 3 feet away from you gets to enjoy some of those particles on them.
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