By Jenna Cyprus
The workplace environment you spend 40 or 50 hours in per week has a very real and substantial impact on your mental health, according to multiple studies and expert opinions from psychologists all around the world.
According to a 2011 research study on how workplace design contributes to mental health and well-being, the average person spends 33 percent of their waking time in their workplace on a weekly basis. As such, the physical workplace environment has a major impact on everything from happiness and mood to productivity and focus. The study concludes that “good working conditions enable employees to work effectively” and that “investments in the physical workplace that create those conditions pay back quickly.”
One of the biggest issues for business owners involves choosing between different office spaces. At any given time, there are hundreds of different office spaces for lease in big cities. Take, for example, Atlanta, Georgia. As of December 2015, there are nearly 200 listings currently available in the metro area. Some offer open floor plan designs, while others have more traditional private floor plans with individual offices and boardrooms. According to studies, selecting one over the other can significantly affect workplace productivity.
In 2011, psychologist Matthew Davis analyzed more than 100 studies about office environments and found that, though they foster a “symbolic sense of organizational mission,” open office floor plans are actually “damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.”
When cross-referenced against standard partitioned offices, Davis found that employees in open offices dealt with more uncontrolled interactions, lower levels of concentration, less motivation, and higher levels of stress. That’s a strong price to pay for trendy architecture.
While some people are able to deal with more noise than others, research shows that noise distracts everyone. This study in cognitive control found that habitual multitaskers are more susceptible to interruptions and take longer to recover from interruptions. In offices with open environments or poor noise control, these employees are much more likely to become distracted and underperform.
The fact is that millennials – a group that now represents a large portion of the workforce – are natural multitaskers. Employers aren’t going to be able to fix this. As a result, this means that something has to be done to the workplace environment to reduce the number of distractions. Many business owners are finding that offices with private offices and cubicles are better than open floor plan designs.