How Open Plan Offices Are Harming Your Health

How Open Plan Offices Are Harming Your Health

If you’ve never thought about how much of your life you’ll spend at work you might be surprised to learn that the average office worker will spend 32 percent of their waking hours or roughly 10.3 years at their place of employment.

From this statistic it is clear that the office environment plays a significant role in our mental and physical wellbeing. This begs the question, ‘how has the performance of some 237 million Americans working in open plan offices been affected by a design that has been proven to adversely affect their health?’


The Open Office Trap

The problem with open office plans stems from proximity. Workstations and common areas are arranged in a way that capitalizes on the space available at the expense of the worker.

Cramped conditions contribute to decreased levels of productivity and engagement and trends indicating a declining health of the overall workforce soon become apparent. Workers are getting sick more often in open plan office spaces and are taking more time off as a result.

This is not a problem unique to the United States. A recent study conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that businesses operating out of open-air office setups reported 62 percent more sick days as opposed to those that were closed.


U.S. Employee Perceptions of Sick Days
There is a vast difference between most European countries and the U.S. in regards to attitudes toward sick days. Close to 80 percent of Americans are coming to work even when they know they are sick, and that number is on the rise. This creates a vicious cycle that begins and ends with more employees falling victim to illness in the workplace.

What’s worse is that the sick day system is failing employees. In an online poll conducted by Staples, 25 percent of workers said that they avoided taking a sick day and 66 percent admitted that they returned to work while still contagious.


The Employer’s Role in Safeguarding Employee Health

It is up to employers to come to the conclusion that it is in their best interest financially (and perhaps ethically) to promote a healthy working environment. Being slightly more flexible with employee requests for time off in relation to sickness can translate into a 5 to 15 percent increase in productivity and efficiency.
Ways to Combat Illness in the Workplace
With mounting evidence supporting the claim that open plan offices are harmful to the health of employees, most employers are doing the right thing and are moving away from open-air office designs.

In fairness, some employers will be physically unable to change the structure of the office building. Under such circumstances one of the best and most effective ways to fight illness is to hire a professional cleaning service to maintain sanitary working conditions on a regular basis.

Wherever employee health concerns are raised, a dedicated team of professional cleaners can provide solutions to business owners seeking help.

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