Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

American Workers Really Don't Like This

By Daniel B. Kline - Apr 9, 2019 at 11:00AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

This work situation has become common and a lot of people don't like it.

It's possible for something to seem good but not actually be so, at least not universally. For instance, drinking orange juice was once considered smart and healthy. Now we know that fruit juice is filled with sugar, lacks important nutrients found in whole fruit, and its acidity can wreak havoc on some people's stomachs. That doesn't make OJ terrible, but it's not as simple as we once thought it was. The same may be true for open offices.

Open offices, or workspaces that lack traditional walls, doors, and cubicles, apparently foster collaboration, create a more level playing field professionally, and allow for flexibility. Those things can be true, and workers can still be unhappy working in open offices. Workers really don't like them at all, according to a survey from public relations company Bospar.

An open office.

Open offices make it easier to talk to people but potentially harder to concentrate. Image source: Getty Images.

Tell me how you really feel

More than three-quarters of the 1,000 U.S. office workers surveyed said that they "hate" open offices. The reasons they cited include lack of privacy (43%), having to overhear personal conversations (34%), not being able to concentrate (29%), worrying about sensitive information being overheard (23%), and not being able to do their best thinking (21%).

"An overwhelming majority of Americans want to work in quiet places, but they can't do that in today's open office environments," said Bospar executive Curtis Sparrer in a press release.

Take these results with a grain of salt, because it's not that U.S. workers want to go back to the traditional layout -- they want to telecommute instead of working in an office at all. Of the respondents, 84% said they would prefer to work from home, with 60% naming "not having to commute" as the reason why, while 41% said they would be more productive at home. In addition, 35% said they would produce more if they could work at home (Respondents could name more than one reason.)

Talk to your employees

Working from home provides employees with clear benefits, but allowing telecommuting doesn't always meet the needs of the company. It's important to involve workers in discussions about how the office is laid out. It's possible to have open collaborative areas as well as private workspaces that workers have access to.

Open offices certainly have benefits, but there's a fair amount of research about their drawbacks as well. No company needs to deal in absolutes. One company might bring back cubicles while allowing some remote work. Another might keep the open office, add private spaces, but keep remote work to a minimum.

It's important for companies and employees to talk about these issues. The days of private offices surrounding cubicle farms with a clear worker/management hierarchy may be gone. That does not mean the current open office format has to prevail. It's possible, with discussion and patience, to find solutions that foster both collaboration and thinking while also keeping employees happy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
332%
 
S&P 500 Returns
118%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/26/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.