More studies are emerging with findings about open-office plans. A new one, laid out in Maria Konnikova’s article in The New Yorker, found that working in an open-office lowers productivity and creativity at an alarming degree. Part of the issue seems to be that the open-office plan’s popularity is due to the new generation of workers, who often have never worked in a traditional cubicle-type layout:
When, in 2012, Heidi Rasila and Peggie Rothe looked at how employees of a Finnish telecommunications company born after 1982 reacted to the negative effects of open-office plans, they noted that young employees found certain types of noises, such as conversations and laughter, just as distracting as their older counterparts did. The younger workers also disparaged their lack of privacy and an inability to control their environment. But they believed that the trade-offs were ultimately worth it, because the open space resulted in a sense of camaraderie; they valued the time spent socializing with coworkers, whom they often saw as friends.
The increased satisfaction stated by workers, Konnikova warns, may be further masking that younger workers suffer just as badly in open offices as their predecessors.
Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.
While there may be lots of social benefits, they might also be the reason lines between work and personal life are increasingly gray as well. Is this all due to the layout of offices, or is it a larger, cultural movement?
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