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Combatting distraction in open plan offices

Offices across the world have embraced the open office with approx 70% of US offices now open concept. But new research indicates that open-plan offices can actually decrease employee productivity, health and happiness.

We take a look at the development and direction of interior workplace designs addressing these challenges.

Written by Lucy Hardwick, Marketing Director

A recent study by Harvard Business School suggests that open-plan offices actually lead to a 72% drop in face-to-face interaction between employees, with more email use and less productivity. According to another piece of research, conducted by Ipsos and Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures team, office workers are losing a total of 86 minutes every day to distractions.

So what can we do?

By using good, thoughtful design, the majority of open offices can be adapted to create a flexible, attractive and more productive environment without needing a complete redesign.

Create comfortable and versatile breakout spaces, with sofas and coffee tables, for checking emails, taking a break and socialising.

Encourage employees to leave their desks by providing a variety of areas for different tasks and interactions, designing your space to encourage ‘collisions’ between colleagues.

Provide private or partially private spaces for meetings away from the desks, such as pods or prefabricated ‘rooms’ within the space.

Use screens and high-backed furniture such as booths, to provide spaces with visual and acoustic privacy for focused work, meetings and phone calls workers may not wish to share with the whole office.

Collaboration tables allow co-workers to spread their work out, move around, work together and be creative.