Workplace Study Reveals Insight On Open Office Layouts

One-third of employees named audible distractions as their top concern regarding the open office, according to a new study by Stegmeier Consulting Group (SCG), “The State of the Open Office” Research Study.

open officeWorkforce resistance to open office layouts has been well-documented, and the pervasiveness of this topic requires comprehensive analysis to understand the various factors contributing to employee willingness or reluctance to working in an open plan. SCG created “The State of the Open Office” Research Study to serve as an instrument to measure workforce, organizational, and geographical sentiments and trends for open office layouts.

The issue of audible distractions was cited by 33% of survey respondents as their top concern regarding the open office. Other common workforce concerns of open office layouts include lack of audible privacy and visual distractions. The study also indicated an increase in executives and leaders utilizing open environment work settings, and altogether forgoing the privacy of a private office. Thus, the workstation shift taking place across many industries is affecting all levels of organizations, and walls are coming down in offices around the world.

“The study also uncovers a correlation between respondents who reported recently having moved to a new office environment and their concern over uninvited interruptions,” says SCG’s CEO and founder, Diane Stegmeier. “The pre-move concerns of audio distractions, audible privacy, and visual distractions shifted post-move due to poor adoption of the new behaviors that were deemed necessary for the workforce to function effectively. This trend was universal, regardless of the respondent’s geographic location. SCG’s experience providing change management support for clients’ workplace transformation projects reinforces the importance of developing workplace protocols for new ways of working well before the transition, and educating the workforce on the new etiquette.”

open officeSCG also validated the notion that open office concepts are most prominent in Europe, and then (decreasingly prevalent, but still popular) in Canada and on the U.S. East and West Coasts. Further, study participants from Latin America, South America, and Asia all documented an expected increase in the introduction of the open plan to their workplaces. Overall, SCG expects a general reduction in private offices and assigned cubicles, and an increase in individuals sitting in an open plan in their future office settings.

Using data-gathering software, the study elicited information from anonymous respondents representing 20 industries across six continents. Participants were invited to provide feedback regarding their concerns and enthusiasm for the open office layout, current workplace configuration, forthcoming workplace transformations, and expected organizational trends for those forthcoming workplace transformations.

The study contains responses from 482 individuals, 49 of whom SCG interviewed in person at NeoCon in June of 2015, and 433 who submitted data electronically through February 2016. Nearly 200 respondents provided a business email address, allowing analysts to cross-check each organization’s workforce size for a total representative populace of over 5.5 million employees.

“The State of the Open Office” Research Study is available online.