15th December 2017, Volume 130 Number 1467

Ann Richardson, John Potter, Margaret Paterson, Thomas Harding, Gaye Tyler-Merrick, Ray Kirk, Kate Reid, Jane McChesney

In the government, health, and tertiary education sectors of many countries including New Zealand, workplace design is changing from the provision of individual offices for employees, to shared or open-plan…

Subscriber content

The full contents of this page is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe

Summary

We undertook a review of recent research into the effects of workplace design, comparing individual with shared workspaces, on the health of employees. Our review found that, compared with individual offices, shared or open-plan office space is not beneficial to employees’ health, with consistent findings of deleterious effects on staff health, wellbeing and productivity. The findings of our review are consistent with those of earlier reviews. These findings have public health implications for the New Zealand workforce. Decisions about workplace design should include weighing the short-term financial benefits of open-plan or shared workspaces against the significant harms, including increased sickness absence, lower job satisfaction and productivity, and possible threats to recruitment and retention of staff.

Abstract

Aim

To carry out a systematic review of recent research into the effects of workplace design, comparing individual with shared workspaces, on the health of employees.

Method

The research question was “Does workplace design (specifically individual offices compared with shared workspaces) affect the health of workers?” A literature search limited to articles published between 2000 and 2017 was undertaken. A systematic review was carried out, and the findings of the reviewed studies grouped into themes according to the primary outcomes measured in the studies.

Results

The literature search identified 15 relevant studies addressing health effects of shared or open-plan offices compared with individual offices. Our systematic review found that, compared with individual offices, shared or open-plan office space is not beneficial to employees’ health, with consistent findings of deleterious effects on staff health, wellbeing and productivity. Our findings are also consistent with those of earlier reviews.

Conclusion

These findings have public health implications for the New Zealand workforce. Decisions about workplace design should include weighing the short-term financial benefits of open-plan or shared workspaces against the significant harms, including increased sickness absence, lower job satisfaction and productivity, and possible threats to recruitment and retention of staff.

Author Information

Ann Richardson, Professor, Wayne Francis Cancer Epidemiology Research Group, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch; John Potter, Adjunct Professor, Wayne Francis Cancer Epidemiology Research Group, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch; Chief Science Advisor, Ministry of Health, Wellington; Margaret Paterson, Health Sciences Librarian, University Library, University of Canterbury, Christchurch;
Thomas Harding, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch; Gaye Tyler-Merrick, Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch;
Ray Kirk, Professor, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch;
Kate Reid, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch;
Jane McChesney, Senior Lecturer, School of Teacher Education, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.

Acknowledgements

Ann Richardson receives support from the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust.

Correspondence

Ann Richardson, School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch.

Correspondence Email

ann.richardson@canterbury.ac.nz

Competing Interests

Nil.

References

  1. Brennan A, Chugh JS, Kline T. Traditional versus open office design a longitudinal field study. Environment and Behavior. 2002; 34(3):279–299.
  2. De Croon E, Sluiter J, Kuijer PP, Frings-Dresen M. The effect of office concepts on worker health and performance: a systematic review of the literature. Ergonomics. 2005; 48(2):119–134.
  3. Oommen VG, Knowles M, Zhao I. Should health service managers embrace open plan work environments? A review. Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management. 2008; 3(2):37.
  4. Baldry C, Barnes A. The open-plan academy: space, control and the undermining of professional identity. Work, Employment and Society. 2012; 26(2):228–245.
  5. Davis MC, Leach DJ, Clegg CW. The physical environment of the office: contemporary and emerging issues. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 2011; 26(1):193–237.
  6. Parker LD. From scientific to activity based office management: a mirage of change. Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change. 2016; 12(2):177–202.
  7. Deem R. ‘New managerialism’and higher education: the management of performances and cultures in universities in the United Kingdom. International Studies in Sociology of Education. 1998; 8(1):47–70.
  8. Nikolaeva R, Russo SD. Office design and dignity at work in the knowledge economy. In: Kostera M, Pirson M (eds). Dignity and the organization. London: Palgrave MacMillan UK. 2017; 197–220.
  9. Vischer J. Will this open space work? Harvard Business Review. 1999; 77:28–40.
  10. Pinder J, Parker J, Austin SA, et al. The case for new academic workspace. Loughborough: Loughborough University; 2009.
  11. Zahn GL. Face-to-face communication in an office setting the effects of position, proximity, and exposure. Communication Research. 1991; 18(6):737–754.
  12. Sundstrom E, Burt RE, Kamp D. Privacy at work: architectural correlates of job satisfaction and job performance. Academy of Management Journal. 1980; 23(1):101–117.
  13. Hedge A. The open-plan office: a systematic investigation of employee reactions to their work environment. Environment and Behavior. 1982; 14(5):519–542.
  14. Roderick I. The politics of office design. Journal of Language and Politics. 2016; 15(3):274–287.
  15. World Health Organization. Constitution of the World Health Organization. Geneva: WHO; 1995.
  16. Liberati A, Altman DG, Tetzlaff J, et al. The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration. PLoS Med. 2009; 6(7):e1000100.
  17. Pejtersen JH, Feveile H, Christensen KB, Burr H. Sickness absence associated with shared and open-plan offices: a national cross sectional questionnaire survey. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2011; 376–382.
  18. Bodin Danielsson C, Chungkham HS, Wulff C, Westerlund H. Office design’s impact on sick leave rates. Ergonomics. 2014; 57(2):139–147.
  19. Bergstrom J, Miller M, Horneij E. Work environment perceptions following relocation to open-plan offices: a twelve-month longitudinal study. Work. 2015; 50(2):221–228.
  20. Herbig B, Schneider A, Nowak D. Does office space occupation matter? The role of the number of persons per enclosed office space, psychosocial work characteristics, and environmental satisfaction in the physical and mental health of employees. Indoor Air. 2016; 26(5):755–767.
  21. Morrison RL, Macky KA. The demands and resources arising from shared office spaces. Appl Ergon. 2017; 60:103–115.
  22. Haynes BP, Parkin JK, Austin SA, et al. Balancing collaboration and privacy in academic workspaces. Facilities. 2011; 29(1/2):31–49.
  23. Kim J, de Dear R. Workspace satisfaction: the privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2013;36:18–26.
  24. Fried Y, Slowik LH, Ben-David HA, Tiegs RB. Exploring the relationship between workspace density and employee attitudinal reactions: An integrative model. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. 2001; 74(3):359–372.
  25. Blok MM, Groenesteijn L, Schelvis R, Vink P. New ways of working: does flexibility in time and location of work change work behavior and affect business outcomes? Work. 2012; 41 Suppl 1:2605–2610.
  26. Gorgievski MJ, van der Voordt TJ, van Herpen SG, van Akkeren S. After the fire: new ways of working in an academic setting. Facilities. 2010; 28(3/4):206–224.
  27. Danielsson CB. Office type’s association to employees’ welfare: three studies. Work. 2016; 54(4):779–790.
  28. Seddigh A, Berntson E, Danielson CB, Westerlund H. Concentration requirements modify the effect of office type on indicators of health and performance. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2014; 38:167–174.
  29. Seddigh A, Stenfors C, Berntsson E, et al. The association between office design and performance on demanding cognitive tasks. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2015; 42:172–181.
  30. Seddigh A, Berntson E, Platts LG, Westerlund H. Does personality have a different impact on self-rated distraction, job satisfaction, and job performance in different office types? PLoS ONE. 2016; 11(5):e0155295.
  31. Al Horr Y, Arif M, Kaushik A, et al. Occupant productivity and office indoor environment quality: a review of the literature. Building and Environment. 2016; 105:369–389.
  32. Kok W, Meyer M, Titus S, et al. The influence of open plan work-environments on the productivity of employees: the case of engineering firms in Cape Town. Problems and Perspectives in Management. 2015; 13(2):51–56.
  33. Oyetunji CO. Lecturers’ perceptions of open-plan office in tertiary institutions. Journal of Education Training. 2013; 1(1):27–38.
  34. Maher A, von Hippel C. Individual differences in employee reactions to open-plan offices. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2005; 25(2):219–229.
  35. Haynes B, Suckley L, Nunnington N. Workplace productivity and office type: an evaluation of office occupier differences based on age and gender. Journal of Corporate Real Estate. 2017; 19(2).

Download

The downloadable PDF version of this article is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe