The open plan office sucks–it’s also good for you

September 11, 2018 Sanjana Saluja

The latest research clearly indicates that our offices affect our health. Fast Company explores how organizations can balance physical health, emotional well-being, and collaboration with the right design.

You may hate your open plan office. It may negatively affect your productivity. It may engender sexism and gender inequality in your office. It may reduce collaboration and increase emails. But, like most design issues, offices are complicated–and a new study suggests there is one very good reason to embrace the open plan: It’s making you healthier.

At least that’s what a new study, published in the British medical journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine this month, suggests. The research is part of a $3.3 million, U.S. General Services Administration-funded project called “Wellbuilt for Wellbeing,” studying how workplace design affects health. According to the authors, workers in open plan offices tend to move around more, as opposed to people in cubicles and private offices. The former ended up less stressed, while the latter were more anxious and unhappy at the end of the day.

The research–led by Casey Lindberg, an associate researcher at the University of Arizona’s Institute on Place, Wellbeing, and Performance–took a group of 231 people working in federal office buildings and equipped them with stress and activity sensors for three workdays and two nights. “[These] sensors can inform policies and practices that affect the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of office workers worldwide,” Lindberg says in a statement. The study subjects wore a cardiac activity sensor that works like a portable electrocardiogram, as well as a triaxial accelerometer that monitored how they moved all day long. The subjects also used a mobile app to report how tense they were on an hourly basis.

This way, the authors were recording both their physical stress levels and their perceived stress levels, rather than just one or the other.

Click here to find out how your open plan office may be making you healthier.

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