Open Plan Office and Your Health

Are you for or against this policy? Regardless of your opinion about open office policy from a professional perspective, what seems to be quite clear is that open office could actually be bad for your health and I am talking both physical health and mental health!

A literature review of 15 studies into open plan offices by University of Canterbury researchers found, when compared with individual offices, staff using shared or open plan office space get sick more often.

When we break this down, it will sound so logical why this is the case. Office workers on average spend 6 to 7 hours in the office. That is a lot of time, Monday to Friday. So when one of your colleagues is sneezing and coughing, those germs will travel fast.

The bad news is that this does not only affect your physical health, but also your mental health.

Open plan office workers report that their dissatisfactions stem from increased levels of noise and distraction and the lack of privacy. While some of these issues are relatively minor, if they happen everyday, it will lead to decreased efficiency.

Not only that, forcing people with different personalities and working styles in the same open room could be a problem.

I talked to someone about this topic over the weekend and his response was, my biggest problem with my open plan office is the constant offer for chocolate, MnMs and cookies from my coworkers. Which is quite funny because we just talked about it last week that social interactions could be one of the reason why you gain weight at workplace.

Then you have people who talk to loudly, or type on their keyboard as if they are trying to break it or people who eat durian at their desks.

All of these could contribute to unnecessary stress at work which negatively affecting their work performance.

Are they any benefits to open plan office?

There are always two sides to every story and beside the fact that it’s cheaper, there are actually some benefits from having or working in an open plan office.

Open plan office works really well in certain industries. I must say that it works really well for research associates because when I was one, we tend to spend majority of our time in the lab anyway.

My sister who is an accountant also says that people in her profession generally do not mind open plan office.

The supporters of open plan office policy claim that this concept helps companies to cut on cost. At first glance yes, less construction, less space and less rent. But when you take into account the sick days, this could cost companies more.

How to survive open plan office?

Be healthy and make sure that your immune system is always good and because 70% of your immunity is from your gut health, this means that you have to adopt a healthier life style – diet, supplements and hydration.

As for your mental health, you really need to be organised and create your own territory. Personalise your work desk by maybe put a little pot plant or a picture that you like.

Be respectful to your neighbours and be more patient. Be mindful of your privacy and others. Use headset, even if it’s actually not on. It helps to discourage people to distract you unnecessarily.

Lastly, but maybe most importantly, stay out of grown people’s business, remember workplace is a place to work.

Don’t complain too much, because some people even have it worse than open plan office, which is ‘Hot Desk’. If you are in this situation, make sure you stock up on sanitiser!

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