From The Open-Office Trap by Maria Konnikova:
In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared.
Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance. Open offices also remove an element of control, which can lead to feelings of helplessness.
(1) Like many companies, we increased the openness of Seeking Alpha’s office over time, because removing closed rooms made it lighter, less hierarchical, and less silo-ed.
(2) But the risk that we’ve reduced work effectiveness and happiness worries me. See Startup office design: Time to reconsider cubicles?
(3) Can you get the best of both worlds? See The two key elements in WeWork’s better office environment.