5 reasons why open office spaces destroy your productivity

Jun 17th, 2019 (updated on Jul 28th, 2019) Tisho Iliev
Open office space
Open office space (photo by Sylvain Kalache, CC BY)

A simple way of describing an open office space is a regular office without inner walls. As opposed to cubicles or separate rooms per team, nowadays employers choose open office spaces. The goal of the companies is to save money, but do they really achieve it?


It is a regular working day and you come to the office at 9 AM. You start working because you have a complicated task to tackle and its deadline is by the end of the day. Since the space is occupied by 40 people, each 2-3 minutes a coworker arrives at the office and distracts you from your work. Sometimes a morning chit chat is formed and you lose another 15-20 minutes. It is 10:30 AM and you have barely done any work. By this time everyone is in the office and some of the teams decide to do their meetings in the space. Whether it is work-related talk or a random talk in the space, you hear everything. A lot of mental energy is wasted in trying to ignore the noise and concentrate in such environment. Do not wonder why you feel more exhausted after working in a noisy office space.

If you want to complain about the noise, your manager will gladly accept you in his private office. He will explain you about all of the positives an open office space brings to the table and will propose you to use headphones. However, wearing headphones makes you less accessible to your colleagues. Calling you by your name might not be enough to get your attention.

There are many solutions to working in a noisy environment, besides headphones - coming earlier/staying late, working in a meeting room or working from home.

Without a doubt working in a noisy environment decreases your productivity.

No privacy

Sharing one room with a lot of people results in a lack of privacy. Oftentimes many colleagues have a direct eye contact with your monitor. The movement around your desk is increased. This brings a sense of insecurity in you and every time you are about to take a break by reading some news or open a funny meme sent by a coworker makes you think who might be looking in your monitor in this moment. Someone might argue you are not supposed to look at funny pictures while working but you need to relax from time to time. Getting completely away from a problem for a while helps you solve it later on a fresh mind.

The feeling you are under surveillance increases the stress and lowers your productivity.

Constant interruptions

The biggest advantage of the open office spaces is said to be the collaboration it encourages. Yes, it is true the communication is a lot easier when we are all in one place but unfortunately it stimulates doing unneeded interruptions.

Office interruption
Office interruption (photo by Pixabay)

When you are in the same place with so many coworkers and having a complex task it always seems easier to interrupt a colleague sitting two feet away instead of spending some time thinking how could you solve the issue by yourself. This leads to a constant string of interruptions throughout the day. On the other hand, if the same colleague is located in other room, it is more likely to try to figure out solution to your issue before going to him for help.

It takes time to return back to your work after being interrupted. Of course, there should be a reasonable amount of communication in the office, but overdoing it kills your productivity.

No control over the working environment

Each of us has a different preference for the acceptable temperature, light and noise in an office. Of course, when working with other people, you will have to conform with them and adapt to the working environment for the sake of the team’s goals. But the more colleagues you work with in one area, the more compromises you will have to make.

Employers who save money by choosing open office spaces almost always overcrowd the space to cut the cost even more. This leads to losing control over your physical environment, which increases the risk of conflict. Poor working environment provoke conflicts. I have seen so many ruined relationships because of a disagreement over the physical working conditions.

Working environment is a one of the greatest factors for employee’s productivity and should be a top priority for each employer who wants to get the best of their workforce.

Increased sickness

The flu season, winter, could be easily recognized when working in an open space office - the number of people on a sick leave is noticeably high. An open office worker communicates with colleagues a lot more but this comes with a cost of spreading infections when the employee is sick.

Unplanned loss of a part of a team due to sick leave hurts the productivity tremendously. It might influence the outcome of a project.

Employers should pay attention to the health of their employees. Working from home should be advised each time an employee does not feel good or he/she does not look healthy.

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Tisho Iliev
Tisho Iliev
Tisho Iliev
An IT specialist with 8+ years of experience in developing software solutions. I have been working in multiple US - based corporations. How the working environment impacts the employees has always been fascinating to me. The working conditions, underestimated by many employers, contribute to the health and productivity of the employees and always affect the outcome of a project in a positive or negative way.
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