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Your Office Could Be Making You Sick

A personal office would be a dream come true for many of us — living the good life with the door closed! OK, so having an office wouldn't solve every workplace qualm, but research shows that your argument for one could be stronger than you may have thought.

There are plenty of factors that make us irritable at work, and it turns out that the layout of our offices could be partially to blame. Research has shown that the lack of personal space that's a given with open-plan offices "caused high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover." Besides high blood pressure, research suggested that workers in open-plan settings are more prone to exhaustion and the flu.

Worker productivity can take a hit with this type of layout because noisy co-workers break concentration. Researchers added insecurity as another reason why open-plan offices aren't good for employees — everyone can see what's happening on your computer screen and what you're saying on the phone. What are your feelings toward the way your office is set up?


Join The Conversation
PammyLZ PammyLZ 8 years
Yes, this article is absolutely true. I'm an admin assistant and my desk is out in the open entirely. We have a lot of employees that work out of the office, that have never worked in an office before. So when they come in, it's party time! They talk loud, stand all around my desk, and are completely ignorant of the fact that I'm working. I have zero privacy all the time. I am there most of the time, doing most, if not ALL of the office work, you would think I would have an office to myself. I know I would feel better about coming to work every day, and do a more proficient job if I did not have feel like a kindergarten teacher for adults. I've been looking for a new job, but this is Michigan and the economy is 10 times worse here. I keep putting my resume out there, hopefully I will get a hit.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
Our main office is cubeland....but the cubicle walls are about 5 feet tall. So there's a bit of privacy, but when people walk by they can see what you're doing. My doorway is to the right of me, if I REALLY didn't want people to see what I was doing I can just turn my laptop away from the doorway. As far as phone conversations are concerned, you can hear just about everyone, but the walls help muffle the sound. Our lab space is pretty open, but I spend most of my time working with a microscope within my own dedicated space. So I don't mind it too much.
tee0206 tee0206 8 years
Well, tomorrow will be my last day of sharing a nice, big corner office with two other people. Next week, we're moving into a new administrative building with the open floor plan. While it'll seem like more privacy in some ways, it's also a lot less privacy in others. My cubicle is also going to be right across from the restrooms, which won't be helping at all.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I work in a lab and all of our space is shared. Which DEFINITELY sucks, because you have absolutely no privacy whatsoever. I have the whole bench area to myself, including the phone and computer, but if I have to talk on the phone, everyone else can hear me and people can see my computer all the time too. I guess it makes it easy to work in a team environment, but the utter lack of privacy really gets to me some days. I mean, some days I'd like a little peace and quiet and I don't want to hear 3 people's conversations about what happened on their favorite TV show or what their kid did at school that day.
Deidre Deidre 8 years
I used to be in a maze of cubes, all in groups of 4. Each person's computer faced one of the corners of the 4-cube square we shared. With the flimsy "walls," and my monitor out there for all to see, there was never any privacy, and defnitely think it affected my efficiancy at work. In my current job, my department is only 6 people and we have our own section of the company. It's so much better! 4 of the team have offices, and myself and a coworker each have large cubible areas that are separated off by a big wall of shelves. No more people looking over my shoulder, plus I sit right next to a very large window. The ability to see sunshine and people walking on the street outside definitely brightens my mood and productivity!
fitgirlFL fitgirlFL 8 years
I used to work in an office where I sat right out in the open, right up against the wall. One of the women I worked with used to always read my screen as she walked by - and even make comments. She would literally stop and read what I was looking at/working on. I had zero privacy and I hated it so much. I would never, ever go back to the desk. I work at home now - so total privacy. I couldn't work in that sort of environment again. It would be a total deal breaker for me.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I'm in the world of open floor plans, not a huge fan. :(
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
omg - i'm 100% ON BOARD with this post. i used to have an office in my old agency and that was great since i could work efficiently, and didn't have the nonsense all around me. now i'm in cube land and we're moving offices tomorrow to a new building w/ an OPEN FLOOR PLAN which i'm not looking forward to. i get irritated when i'm on calls and i can't hear myself think because of all the noise around me, and it's just going to get worse.
SDTransplant SDTransplant 8 years
I work in a small office (less than 15 employees) and we occupy three floors in a building. Though it's an open floor plan, I've come to accept that people may look at my computer screen from time to time (though it's particularly irritating when someone stops by my desk and their glance lingers at my screen--ugh!) and am in the habit of minimizing or closing everything when someone comes by. Noisewise, the people I currently share the floor with are very nice and mindful when they're on the phone, but one woman who used to work here was on the phone 24/7 and never closed the door even though she had her own office. That was the pits--I was glad when she left!
lifestylebzzz lifestylebzzz 8 years
I agree with this article, my co-workers are so nosy and whenever I am on the phone they always make a comment either during the conversation or after the conversation.
shydcgirl28 shydcgirl28 8 years
I'm lucky enough to be in a big office by myself, I'm the IT person. So in addition to managing the server room that is independently ventilated, I almost never get sick at work. That's a plus to this sucky job!
RosaDilia RosaDilia 8 years
I have my own personal office but it's located on a floor that's shared by other offices. The other offices are very close to each other and you can literally hear the other conversations even with the door closed. And now, our floors were redone from carpeting to tiles and it's the pits. You hear heels tapping all day long from one side of the floor to the other.
bengalspice bengalspice 8 years
I hate my desk. The people next to me yap most of the day. I hate the feeling of people looking over my shoulder when I'm at the computer because it always makes me feel guilty or that I'm doing something wrong if I take a quick break to check my emails. I also hate how most activity goes one behind me, and I'm always facing a corner and the computer. GAH!
cokerad cokerad 8 years
We just moved to this low walled, open plan office format in October because it "fosters communication and teamwork!!" but I agree with this article. People are always hacking and sneezing like they're going to get an Olympic medal for the longest snot shot. And co-workers are a total PITA. They hum, whistle, shift around in their seats constantly, and get up a lot. And everyone's eyes tend to shift to the movement, no matter what or who. Needless to say, I am constantly on the lookout to move to the bigger corporate offices.
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