When Are We Going to Close Down the Open Office?

Should companies consider going back to cubicles in offices? – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

I hear from job seekers every day. They’ve been searching for a new job for ages. When they finally land it, they have a concern that’s not about money; it’s their office setup.

For years, open style offices have been all the rage. Whether it’s shared cubicles or a big open room, companies are still hanging onto this concept. Many managers say the environment will foster collaboration and connection. The problem is collaboration and connection don’t seem to be an issue with those who have offices.

In reality, companies are trying to save money on real estate and the employees are the ones who pay the price.

Study after study has confirmed that an open office environment reduces productivity. The BBC found that 70 percent of U.S. companies are using open offices. Yet, they decrease productivity by at least 15 percent. In fact, studies show that open office environments also increase sick days at a company. These offices are costing the company valuable time and money.

Chances are, I’m preaching to the choir. I’ve never spoken to a single person who actually likes working in an open office. So, what’s the answer to this problem? If an open office is causing us to be less productive, less happy, and more sick, what can be done?

Companies could go back to the model of having offices with doors, but that’s the most expensive option. A cheaper strategy would be to switch back to tall cubicles that provide more privacy. But, this is also expensive as it can take up valuable real estate.

With these problems in mind, it seems like the ultimate compromise would be more remote worker jobs. In other words, allow employees to work from the comfort of their homes. I know, it sounds a little out there if it’s something you haven’t tried. It can take a little getting used to.

But, Harvard Business Review shared a study where employees were allowed to work from home. They were more productive, happier and less likely to quit their jobs and the company saved $1,900 per employee on office furniture and space.

Remote work has been a trendy conversation topic for some time. A handful of companies are doing it but it would be great for companies to begin trying it in large volumes. When an entire department works remotely, one person isn’t left out. Everyone learns to work together in this way.

In addition, remote work would allow workers to redistribute themselves across the country to areas that were the best fit for them and their families. For example, someone working in Silicon Valley may want to relocate to a cheaper city that is closer to family. Vermont is currently offering remote workers a $10,000 incentive to relocate to their state.

Today, companies should revisit their office strategy. It would improve productivity, reduce costs, and give them a broader choice of excellent employees to pick from.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

August 2, 2018

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Angela Copeland

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