Washington: There are advantages and disadvantages to an open-plan office - a single giant room where there is not much to separate you from a co-worker seated next to you.

According to the International Management Facility Association, 7 in 10 US office workers have to contend with these distraction-rich environments.

Global design and architecture firm Gensler has released the results of a survey of some 2,035 workers in different kinds of offices, across 10 industry segments.

The study found that employees working in open-plan offices reported having difficulty to focus, and hence difficulty working effectively.

Gensler said that those surveyed represented a broad range of demographics, including education, age, gender and location and included knowledge workers working in an office some or all of the time.

Diane Hoskins, one of Gensler's co-chief executive officers, wrote that the trend toward open offices was building since the 1970s, driven by the need for greater collaboration and better communication.

In a 2009 paper, Professor Tonya Smith-Jackson , chair of the industrial and systems engineering department at North Carolina A and T State

University and co-author Katherine Klein, found that irrelevant speech contributed to mental workload, poor performance, stress and fatigue.

They wrote that the open-plan offices was identified as problematic.

Smith-Jackson added that they saw performance decrements and reduced productivity overall and the reason were twofold: distractions (verbal and visual) reduced employee's focus and at the same time, upped their mental workload.


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