Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill

Date:
February 25, 2014
Source:
Taylor & Francis
Summary:
Don’t blame other commuters if you catch a cold this winter: blame the people who designed your office. According to a study, workplace layout has a surprising effect on rates of sick leave. After crunching the numbers, the researchers found a 'significant excess risk' of short sick-leave spells in three types of open-plan office, especially among women. The study also revealed a higher prevalence of both short sick-leave spells and a higher number of sick days among men in flex-offices: open-plan layouts with no individual workstations, but some meeting rooms.

This study is an important initial investigation into the long-term effects of the modern office environment on employees.
Credit: Goran Bogicevic / Fotolia

Don't blame other commuters if you catch a cold this winter: blame the people who designed your office. According to a study published in the current issue of Ergonomics, workplace layout has a surprising effect on rates of sick leave.

Related Articles


Four Stockholm University scientists examined data from nearly 2000 employees working in seven different types of office. Key to their research was the number of short and long-term illnesses the employees had, as well as their total days off sick each year.

After crunching the numbers, the team found a 'significant excess risk' of short sick-leave spells in three types of open-plan office, especially among women. The study also revealed a higher prevalence of both short sick-leave spells and a higher number of sick days among men in flex-offices: open-plan layouts with no individual workstations, but some meeting rooms.

Long suspected by the employees who use them, evidence from this and other studies confirms that in general, 'traditional open-plan offices are less good for employee health'. Why this should be so is not entirely clear, but environmental stresses (including being exposed to 'irrelevant sound', the lack of 'visual privacy' and a reduced ability to control one's own personal space), as well as the risk of infection, the types of jobs done in open-plan offices and group dynamics might all play a part. As the authors note, group dynamics have been shown to have a preventative effect on sick leave in small offices, and can even lead to 'presenteeism': employees coming to work when they're actually ill.

This fascinating study is an important initial investigation into the long-term effects of the modern office environment on employees. It prepares the ground for longer future studies more focused on the office environment itself -- with all its complex physical, psychosocial and organisational factors. Expanding this line of research is important because, in the words of its authors, "with such knowledge of the office environment's influence on different dimensions of employee health, important gains can be achieved in the long run." For their sake, and the progress of their upcoming research, let's hope that the Stockholm team isn't working in an open-plan office.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Taylor & Francis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christina Bodin Danielsson, Holendro Singh Chungkham, Cornelia Wulff, Hugo Westerlund. Office design's impact on sick leave rates. Ergonomics, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2013.871064

Cite This Page:

Taylor & Francis. "Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225101141.htm>.
Taylor & Francis. (2014, February 25). Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225101141.htm
Taylor & Francis. "Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225101141.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) A popular class of antibiotic can leave patients in severe pain and even result in permanent nerve damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins