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Open-plan offices are making workers sick, say Australian scientists

Tuesday 13 January 2009

THE evidence is overwhelming - working in an open plan office is bad for your health.
Australian scientists have reviewed a global pool of research into the effect of modern office design, concluding the switch to open-plan has led to lower productivity and higher worker stress.
\"The evidence we found was absolutely shocking,\'\' researcher Dr Vinesh Oommen from the Queensland University of Technology\'s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said.
\"In 90 per cent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.
\"The high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity, there are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity.\'\'
Dr Oommen said there was also a higher chance of workplace conflict caused by \"sitting so close to someone that each time their phone rings you can get irritated\'\'.
\"I think most of us, including myself, can relate to that,\'\' he said.
Working in an open-plan office could contribute to higher blood pressure, Dr Oommen said, and an increased risk of illnesses as bugs such as the influenza virus were more swiftly passed around.
\"Based on these findings, I think employers around the country need to rethink the open-plan environment in their offices,\'\' he said.
\"The research found that the traditional design was better - small, private closed offices.
\"The problem is that employers are always looking for ways to cut costs, and using open-plan designs can save 20 per cent on construction.\'\'
Dr Oommen\'s study has been published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management.

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