Is the Open Workspace Concept Right For Your Business?


According to a recent article on, more companies are embracing the open workspace concept, including private firms like Google and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as government agencies like the General Services Administration.

In theory, the idea makes sense: No high cubicle walls means more collaboration, more interaction with co-workers, potentially faster decisionmaking and a more physically active work force.

But, in reality, open offices can hurt companies as much as they help, according to design firm Gensler. In a recent study, the company noted that a collaboration-friendly environment with no cubicle walls “proved ineffective if the ability to focus was not also considered.”

Why It Matters to HR
What’s all this got to do with HR?

After all, with hirings, firings and ever-changing employment law, what does it matter to you what your office looks like?

Employees in open-office setups get sick 62 percent more often compared to their colleagues in cubicles, according to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health.

And workers who were moved from a closed-office set-up to an open office complained that they were more stressed and less satisfied, according to a longitudinal study carried out by Calgary University.

Productivity, sick leave, employee satisfaction — they all fall under HR’s purview.

Help Foster Creativity
The takeaway: An open office plan is a fine, modern idea — so long as you also include other areas for staffers to focus on. In fact, take it from Gensler, which found that most workers spend 50 percent of their time in deep focus, 25 percent of their time collaborating with other employees and the remaining 25 percent learning, socializing and other assorted tasks. If you can set your office up to match those numbers, you’ll be in good shape.

For more assistance with this and other HR-related issues, contact Stacey Bruce at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or