Office cubes hard on your health

Published On: May 22 2014 04:39:02 PM EDT   Updated On: May 26 2014 06:20:00 AM EDT

It may not be the workload causing you all of your stress on the job; it could also be your workspace. Cubicles and open office plans were designed to facilitate communication and idea flow, but they may actually cause us more stress and harm our health. Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, says  the extra stress comes from being on the front lines all day long.

"You're probably a little shy of doing anything personal, making a personal call, even using the restroom may be kind of a spectacle in an open office environment, whereas with greater privacy people are able to take care of some personal needs, so their stress actually goes down," he said.

A 2013 study from the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture found employees with private offices to be far more satisfied at work than people in cubes or open office plans.

A Cornell University study found noise levels in an open office causing an increase in adrenaline in employees, which is associated with the body's stress response. There are also temperature-related discomforts and poor air quality concerns that affect employees' health.

University of Calgary researchers found open office spaces also having a negative impact on workers' focus, productivity, and job satisfaction. The same study found employees in open office spaces experiencing higher stress levels and less concentration.

Bea says to combat your workspace stress, try personalizing your desk with pictures and other items from home, or talk to your boss about even privatizing your work area.

"It might be a door on the cubicle, raising the sides of the cubicle a little bit, soundproofing an environment a little bit, so that there is less noise. Anything that is done along those lines I think can be assistive," Bea said.

Bea adds people who design office spaces should keep in mind what conditions allow a person to optimally work and communicate.


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