In 1973, my high school, Acton-Boxborough Regional, in Acton, Massachusetts, moved to a sprawling brick building at the foot of a hill.
The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, four weeks after the transition, and, finally, six months afterward.
Unfortunately, it seems that the more frantically you multitask, the worse you become at blocking out distractions.
Moreover, according to the Stanford University cognitive neuroscientist Anthony Wagner, heavy multitaskers are not only “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli” but also worse at switching between unrelated tasks.
In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace.
Workers in two-person offices took an average of fifty per cent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of sixty-two per cent more.
When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.
An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health.That increased satisfaction, however, may merely mask the fact that younger workers also suffer in open offices.In a 2005 study, the psychologists Alena Maher and Courtney von Hippel found that the better you are at screening out distractions, the more effectively you work in an open office.What’s more, Evans and Johnson discovered that people in noisy environments made fewer ergonomic adjustments than they would in private, causing increased physical strain.The subjects subsequently attempted to solve fewer puzzles than they had after working in a quiet environment; in other words, they became less motivated and less creative.Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward.