How to Stay Healthy and Safe in Open Offices

The open office concept has been growing in popularity over the last few years due to the many benefits it can bring to the workplace. The removal of barriers between colleagues makes for better communication, stronger collaboration, and easier supervision from management. Not to mention, the open office concept is more cost-effective compared to the traditional cubicle.

However, it is possible for this free and open environment to have a negative impact on your employees. Open office concepts can come with a lack of privacy, constant noise, distractions, less concentration, and more exposure to germs.

Continue reading our blog post to uncover the reasons why open offices need a specialized approach to keep everyone in your office happy and healthy.

What is an Open Office?

An open office is a work environment that makes use of open space rather than having the typical cubicle that separates employees from one another. It is meant to foster better communication and stronger collaboration, improve company culture and trust, and make supervision easier for management. In open offices, you are likely to see rows of desks grouped next to each other with no walls or barriers in between. 

Advantages of an Open Office

First and foremost, businesses make the switch to open offices because of the advantages they offer. One such advantage—and probably the most beneficial—is workplace collaboration. The lack of barriers between employees allows for ease of communication and stronger teamwork.

Next, an open office can ultimately save your business money. According to research done by Capterra, setting up 50 standing desks for an open office costs $24,000 compared with $60,000 to set up 50 cubicles. That’s more than twice as much to set up those cubicles!1

Last but not least, office culture becomes transparent. There are interactions aplenty and everyone can hear everything, leaving no room for secrecy. This transparency has the potential to bring a sense of equity and unity between employees and managers and ultimately build more trust.

Disadvantages of an Open Office

Although open offices sound like the ideal environment to work in, they do come with their own set of disadvantages. For some businesses, communication may be negatively impacted. A study by Havard Business Review found that face-to-face interactions declined by 70 percent while electronic interactions increased, concluding that it may be due to the lack of privacy.2

In addition, open offices also come with many distractions. There are likely multiple conversations happening around you in person and on the phone. Conversations can still be distracting when it comes to cubicles, but you do have a better sense of privacy when enclosed in one. With open offices, employees have to find different ways to stay focused and that may mean putting on headphones or moving to a quiet space.3

Yet another disadvantage of an open office is the loss of productivity. According to Forbes, 1 in 3 workers feel distractions and noise from open offices hinder their productivity. Not everyone has the capacity to focus in an open office environment, and some even think best in solitude. 

Health and Safety

An important topic to discuss when it comes to open offices is the health and safety of your employees. The close proximity between employees and lack of barriers make it easy for germs to make their way around the office and ultimately cause the spread of illnesses. This is why open offices need a specialized approach.

According to an article from Vice, strong values and simple initiatives can help decrease workers’ risks of illness in open offices. Kelly Reynolds, an expert of disease transmission at the University of Arizona, conducted a study that revealed basic hygiene, wellness interventions, and employer-provided hand sanitizers and surface disinfection wipes have resulted in up to an 80 percent reduction in different illnesses within offices.4

The CDC has updated their guidance for non-healthcare facilities stating that if there does not appear to be a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, then cleaning with soap and water once a day will suffice.

However, if there is high transmission within your facility’s community, a lack of face masks being worn, infrequent hand hygiene, or your facility currently employs individuals at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the CDC does recommend cleaning more frequently or choosing to disinfect following cleaning.

Contact Us

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Sources

  1. The Benefits and Disadvantages of a Small Business Open Office (capterra.com)
  2. What Are Advantages & Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office Space? | Small Business – Chron.com
  3. Pros and cons of an open office | Ideas by We (wework.com)
  4. Does Working in an Open-Plan Office Affect Your Health? (vice.com)