As my editorial title has increased over the last two decades, my workspace has perversely shrunk and my privacy vanished entirely. Blame companies who espouse the “open” workspace theory: i.e., that everyone will be more interactive and creative with fewer doors and walls between them.
Turns out those open-minded companies are wrong.
According to a new study by two Harvard Business School researchers published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, face-to-face collaboration significantly decreases (by about 70%) in open office spaces. The field studies here examined corporate HQs transitioning to more open architecture, utilizing electronic badges and microphones to monitor employee interactions — as to which HR department would agree to that, we don’t know.
As the researchers noted: “Rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”
As Fast Company points out, this buttresses early research that showed the so-called increased personal interaction of open-plan offices doesn’t actually offset its disadvantages (like noise and privacy loss).